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Full text of "St. Dingan's bones"

UNIVERSITY 
OF FLORIDA 
LIBRARIES 




COLLEGE LIBRARY 



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ST. DINGAN'S BONES 



ST. DINGAN'S 
BONES 

by 
JULIAN GALLENDER 



New York 
THE VANGUARD PRESS 



Copyright, ©1958, by Julian Callender 

No portion of this book may be 
reprinted in any form without the 
written permission of the publisher, 
except by a reviewer who may wish 
to quote brief passages in connection 
with a review for a newspaper or 
magazine. Manufactured in the 
United States of America. 

Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 58-9250 



Dedicated to my old friend 
The Rt. Reverend Monsignor John Barton 



ST. DINGAN'S BONES 



ballydingan is referred to by Canon Sheehy in his 
little book, Rambles in the West (Skeffington and Hodges, 
1872), as "that jewel in the crown of Connemara"; and 
by Sister St. Aloysius Gonzaga, known also as the Nun 
of Newry (a High Anglican lady of good family and 
considerable means who seceded towards the end of 
the nineteenth century, and later became a Christian 
Scientist), in one of her published letters in the follow- 
ing terms: 

"Were the climate but a little more salubrious, 
Ballydingan would rival Athens and Rome as the 
Mecca of those who travel in search of beauty 
and peace." 

It is possible that the Nun of Newry had not visited 
Athens and Rome when the weather of those two havens 
of beauty and peace was at its worst, but certainly the 
climate of Connemara is not the most salubrious in 
Europe. North-westerly gales may rage coldly for 
weeks on end, and cottage doors, wide open at every 
opportunity, remain resolutely shut; south-westerly 
squalls may drench without warning those hardy 
enough to be out of doors, and send the lobster fisher- 
men racing for port: but on the rare days of fine 

7 



weather there is an unearthly beauty which compen- 
sates for all that has gone, a beauty of blue sky and 
opalescent sea, of white clouds careening over the 
Maam Turks and the Twelve Pins, of green boggy 
fields overlaid with rocks and stones, and pools of wine- 
dark water. It is impossible to describe that beauty in 
more than general terms, for it is a matter of light and 
shade that changes hour by hour, indeed minute by 
minute, so that old Fr. Hennessy who said Mass for the 
Friary at Ballydingan would remain standing gazing 
from the harbour wall, oblivious of his breviary, 
oblivious of passers-by, oblivious even of the Angelus 
bell ringing from the nearby campanile of St. Joseph's. 
Ballydingan, the town or village of St. Dingan, takes 
its name from a humble saint of the fifth century about 
whom little is known except that for a short time he was 
in the company of St. Brigid. His only earthly memorial 
is, or was, a well in the dingle below what is now the 
Protestant church of Holy Trinity, though the church 
stands on a pre-Reformation foundation and the ori- 
ginal church was most probably dedicated to the saint 
from whom the village derives its name. The well was 
so little regarded until recent events brought it back 
into prominence that it had become choked with duck- 
weed and watercress, and only the children of the 
village knew with any certainty of its whereabouts. 
Those who wished for holy water could get it with much 
greater ease, and of a quality indubitably guaranteed 
by Holy Church, simply by taking a small bottle to the 
porch of the parish church, and so the well had fallen 
into desuetude. The wonderful ferro-concrete basilica, 
with its spire which can be seen from many miles away 
across the bog, the pride and joy of Fr. Rooney, the 
parish priest, is not dedicated to St. Dingan, but to 

8 



St. Joseph, the Patron and Protector of the Universal 
Church. 

The main part of the village consists of a single row 
of buildings facing the sea and running uphill from the 
church of St. Joseph at the bottom to the Guards 
Barracks, which stands opposite the entrance to the 
churchyard of Holy Trinity at the top. This church 
also would be a conspicuous landmark (though St. 
Joseph's spire, starting as it does with a considerable 
disadvantage, is at least ten feet higher than the top of 
the tower of Holy Trinity, if one counts the gilded cross 
at the very tip), were it not for the splendid clump of 
trees planted by Lord Roundstone, grandfather of the 
present earl, some eighty years ago. From this point the 
street turns away from the sea for a matter of a mile or 
more and then, having crossed a small peninsula, re- 
gains the shore and becomes the coast road to Clifden. 
On its way out of Ballydingan it passes one rather 
grand cottage set back about a hundred yards from the 
road, which is the home of Mary Maconochie, the 
Connemara poetess, when she is not in Dublin record- 
ing for Radio Eireann; and a little later it skirts a high 
stone wall pierced by an iron gate which surrounds the 
Galway home of the Earl of Roundstone. In the other 
direction the road meanders over the bog and beside 
the sea until it drops down into Roundstone and so on 
to Ballynahinch, once the home of Humanity Martin 
and, in later years, of Ranjit Singh,whose considerable 
wraith, fishing rod in hand, still haunts the Owenmore. 

There are fifty-seven buildings in the main part of 
Ballydingan, and it is more accurate to call them 
buildings than houses because the majority of them 
serve some specific purpose in addition to accommodat- 
ing in their backrooms and upstairs the families of those 

9 



who own them. Of the fifty-seven, twenty-five are bars 
where the traveller may refresh himself with guinness 
from the barrel or the bottle, with Smithwick's ale, or 
with various brands of Irish whisky ; and one bar, the 
resort of the English or, as it would be more proper to 
call them, the Anglo-Irish, has usually two brands of 
Scotch besides, and a number of reputable sherries, and 
during the summer has been known to display bottles 
of Vermouth and Dubonnet. There are also eleven 
shops, though five of these — two victuallers (or but- 
chers), two grocers and a haberdasher, have already 
been counted among the bars, for they possess, in the 
rear of the premises, these stimulating adjuncts to the 
sale of meat and merchandise, and many an old lady 
from across the bog has found comfort in a glass of 
porter while admiring the latest pinafore or petticoat, 
or even more intimate garments newly arrived from 
Galway or Dublin. There are also two hotels, both 
with bars, and one of them selling groceries in addition. 
Just outside the village on the Roundstone road is a 
guest house recently bought by an English couple who 
wished to have a bar as an amenity for their guests, but 
their application for a licence was opposed in the 
district court by the owners of the twenty-five other bars 
on the very plausible ground that a twenty-sixth could 
not but be redundant. Unlike their English counter- 
parts the bars bear no other sign than the name of their 
owner over the door, and this can be confusing as 
several are owned by persons of the same name and 
sometimes of the same family. For instance, three 
brothers of the name of King have bars in the main 
street, two of them next door to each other, and if you 
wish to meet someone at King's Bar it is necessary to 
be more specific and state whether you mean Sean, 

10 



Tomas or Seamus. Seamus is also one of the victuallers, 
and to make it even more difficult, their mother, who 
keeps the haberdashery, has the bar at the back of her 
premises already mentioned. 

The parish priest, the Very Reverend Fr. Rooney, 
was born a little to the north in the county of Mayo. 
He has been eleven times to the summit of Croagh 
Patrick, though he admits that he does not think he will 
ever again make the pilgrimage, for he is now just 
turned sixty-three, and would not get very far without 
his Ford Prefect. He is a benevolent, kindly, gentle 
priest of the old school, growing rather stout but not 
at all pompous, a great contrast to his curate, Fr. 
O'Toole, who is thin and ascetic, and of the neo- 
Jansenist persuasion now fostered in the seminaries of 
Ireland. Fr. Rooney has even been known to lunch 
with Mr. Freeman, the Protestant rector, not, it is true, 
in the parish where such fraternization might be mis- 
understood and perhaps cause scandal to the faithful 
on both sides, but in the Great Southern Hotel at Gal- 
way where they once met in the bar and discovered 
that they had a shared addiction for the novels of 
George Birmingham. Indeed, conversation at lunch 
consisted almost exclusively of antiphonal renderings 
from the master's work. On the other hand, Fr. 
O'Toole, if he should meet Mr. Freeman in the street, 
quickly concentrates still more deeply on his breviary 
which he invariably carries, thus avoiding as far as 
possible the salutations even of the faithful, for he con- 
siders the traffic of the market place to be worldly, and 
worldliness is only one remove from actual ungodliness. 

Mr. Freeman, especially when in the layman's collar 
and black tie which he sometimes affects, looks like a 
retired major of Marines. He is a Cambridge man, 

ii 



though born in Connemara where his father was rector 
of Moyard, and something of a Modernist, inclining to 
a symbolic interpretation of the Creeds, though he does 
not reveal the fact to his congregation of seventeen who 
are fundamentalist if anything, and certainly unthink- 
ing; Protestantism being to them what Shinto is to the 
Japanese. They prefer cosy sermons of not more than 
ten minutes' duration, extolling the virtues of courage, 
or patriotism, or sympathy as long as sympathy does 
not require too practical a demonstration, for they are 
English in origin and undemonstrative by nature, 
especially when it might necessitate the putting of the 
hand in the pocket or the production of a cheque book. 
Mr. Freeman is a widower with one daughter, Belinda, 
who is eighteen and has just left school. 

Lord Roundstone is considered to be somewhat 
eccentric, even in Connemara, though perhaps not 
markedly so among his peers, for the Anglo-Irish 
nobility have never been lacking in character. He had 
become a convert to Rome, to the great disgust of his 
father, while at Oxford, and had been able to reconcile 
this with a profound admiration for Madame Blavatsky 
and her pupil, Miss Annie Besant. Later still he had 
come across the works of Ouspensky, and experienced a 
profound admiration for the somewhat turgid meta- 
physics of that writer and his master, Gurdjieff. Fr. 
Rooney was content to let him read what he liked as 
long as he was punctilious in the performance of his 
religious duties, but he was a little taken aback one day 
during the previous summer, which was exceptionally 
fine, when Lord Roundstone, obviously completely 
nude, waved to him from the top of the porte-cochere 
where he was apparently sun-bathing. Fr. Rooney had 
thought of consulting the canon at Clifden, but he had a 

12 



habit of procrastinating, having found that nearly all 
problems if left alone solve themselves in the end, and 
this proved for once fortunate, for a providential attack 
of sciatica sent Lord Roundstone back to his tweeds. 

Lord Roundstone was a bachelor, his heir presump- 
tive being his nephew, William Shannon, who was also 
his ward. William's father, an officer in the Brigade of 
Guards, had been killed in Africa in 1943, and in the 
same year his mother had died, her friends said of a 
broken heart. William was a Protestant, like his father, 
and one of Mr. Freeman's seventeen. He refused to sit 
in solitary state in the Roundstone pew, and now sat 
with Belinda and a girl called Patricia, daughter of a 
retired English colonel and his wife who lived some 
three miles out on the Clifden road. They called them- 
selves the choir, which Patricia, who was not too nice in 
her use of words, sometimes referred to as an "alibi". 

One other person must be singled out for special 
mention, for he has a part to play in this chronicle, and 
that is the dispensary doctor, Dr. Neville. He is a 
family man, with six children, and his great passion is 
fishing, so he is content to live in a comfortable stone- 
built house just a little below the presbytery, and to 
minister to the not too complicated needs of the village 
and the country around. He graduated at the Galway 
College of the National University, and was once a 
great player of Gaelic football, which has been des- 
scribed as combining all the fouls of Association and 
Rugby football into one glorious free-for-all. 

Such was the village of Ballydingan on the shores of 
Connemara in the late spring of 1956. 



*3 



St. Brigid was honoured because she was Brigid's name 
saint, and her special protectress, but St. Dingan be- 
longed to all of them, and received votive sprays of 
lupin and wild briars from the girls and such rectory 
fruits as could be spared by Michael John and Martin 
James, though Martin was a little too young to under- 
stand why even the sourest of his gooseberries should be 
left in St. Dingan's grotto, and often Brigid had to prise 
open his chubby fist to extract the unwilling tribute. 

Heaven rewards such devotion in the young in 
various ways, and the Conneelly children were singled 
out for an especial favour. On the feast of St. Joan of 
Arc, which is the 30th of May and the eve of Corpus 
Christi, just before sunset, they were vouchsafed a 
vision of St. Brigid. 

Miss Macardle had spent an hour that morning 
telling them of the famous exploits of the Maid of 
Orleans, and her dreadful fate at the hands of the re- 
lentless English, for Miss Macardle was a fervent 
Nationalist and anti-Partitionist, and rarely failed to 
point an anti-English moral. In one way her talk on 
St. Joan might be said to authenticate the apparition 
to the Conneelly children, for, had they invented or 
imagined it, it would surely have been a vision of St. 
Joan or of Our Lady, who, so Miss Macardle had told 
them, had appeared to Joan at Domremy, who would 
have filled their imaginations. 

The children had said the Angelus and then gone on 
an expedition to Miss Maconochie's garden where they 
were able to admire the flowers undisturbed, it being 
well known that Miss Maconochie had taken the 
morning bus for Galway en route for Dublin. As there 
was no possibility of a surprise attack, for Miss Maco- 
nochie's maid, old Bella Naughton, lived at the other 

16 ' 



side of the village and was not inclined to works of 
supererogation, they felt no need to pluck the flowers 
in order to be able to enjoy them at greater leisure, and 
only carried away the smallest spray of Dorothy 
Perkins from a trellised archway for St. Dingan's grotto. 

They had had their tea on returning home from 
school, and supper would not be until something after 
nine o'clock, when they would receive a cup of milk 
and a piece of jam and bread. Michael John and 
Martin began to feel that a visit to the rectory garden 
might be productive of inner sustenance spiced with the 
possibility of adventure, for only the previous day Mrs. 
Nee, Mr. Freeman's cook-housekeeper, had threatened 
to skin them all alive if she found them near the straw- 
berry bed, a threat they deemed her quite capable of 
carrying out. It is true that the strawberries were still 
small, white and hard, but the sun had been shining 
most of the day, and it was just possible that a few had 
begun to turn, for the Irish are great believers in un- 
covenanted mercies. 

Their best way to the rectory garden was up to the 
top of the dingle, over the wall, and across the corner of 
the churchyard to the low wall of the garden, which 
was easily surmounted. Owing to the configuration of 
the ground it was not possible to scale the wall of the 
kitchen garden which formed the boundary of the 
dingle, and was a continuation of the churchyard wall. 
The ground falling away very steeply here made the 
wall impossibly high. Even the churchyard wall was a 
considerable obstacle to young Martin James, who had 
to be hoisted up by the combined efforts of Brigid and 
Bernadette, with a helping hand from Michael John 
astride the top. 

Brigid, being the oldest and the tallest, was the first 

n 



to climb the wall and reconnoitre the terrain. And as 
her head came cautiously over the top of the wall she 
uttered a little cry of surprise. For standing against the 
western wall of the church was a tall lady in blue out- 
lined by a haze of golden light, which might have been 
the glow of the setting sun, or a light flowing from a 
more supernatural region than that of the solar system. 
Her right hand was raised and pointing, and Brigid 
could hear her speaking in a low and musical voice. 

"What is it now?" asked Bernadette. 

"Is it Mr. Freeman?" asked Michael John. 

"Me upl" urged Martin James imperatively. 

"It's the blessed St. Brigid, sure it is," said Brigid, 
crossing herself. 

Bernadette hoisted herself up to the top of the wall, 
and was just in time to see "the lady in blue" before she 
disappeared, whether into thin air or round the corner 
of the gable it was impossible to decide. 

"Why wouldn't it be the Blessed Virgin herself?" 
she asked. 

"Because she hadn't a crown on," said Brigid, with 
complete assurance. 

Michael John and Teresa had both gained the top of 
the wall, and Martin James set up a wail from the 
grassy bank below. Brigid jumped down, and with 
Bernadette pulling and herself pushing he was soon 
hoisted to the top of the wall. 

"Pretty lady," he said, and they all looked across to 
the church where, for a brief moment, they saw the 
tall figure in blue surrounded by a golden light. Her 
right hand pointed to the west wall of the church, and 
just before she vanished for the second time they all 
heard her speak. 

"What was she after saying?" Michael John asked. 

18 



Brigid began to intone: 

"St. Dingarfs bones 
Lie under these stones." 

Miss Macardle had on one occasion told them a 
wonderful story of a piece of bone preserved in a locket 
whose efficacy had been long forgotten, and how it had 
effected a marvellous cure when it had been discovered 
that the locket was really a reliquary and the bone was 
a relic of St. Golman. The story had had a particular 
appeal for Brigid. She had recently had a tooth ex- 
tracted at the dispensary, and it had struck her forcibly 
that a saint's bone, worn in a locket, would be a far 
pleasanter prophylactic against the toothache. 

"Bones!" exclaimed Martin James. His mind was 
running on gooseberries, and even the possibility of 
strawberries. 

But the jingle appealed to the other children, and 
they sang in chorus: 

"St. Dingan's bones 
Lie under these stones." 

It may occasion some surprise that the children 
should accept the apparition in such a matter of fact 
way. But they were Irish children, and not only Irish 
children but children of Connemara. They knew all 
about visions and apparitions, which were, if not a 
commonplace, yet an accepted link between heaven 
and earth, vouchsafed to the pure in heart and the 
young in spirit. 

"Gome on," said Brigid. "We must see if we can find 
a bone. If we found a bone of St. Dingan, it could do 
anything, surely." 

19 



The strawberries forgotten by all except Martin 
James, they made their way across to the west gable 
of the church. Usually they did not linger in the 
churchyard and never played there, for though it was 
not, for them, a sacred place like the ground surround- 
ing St. Joseph's, with its great stone Calvary fronting 
the road, yet it held about it a faint aura of taboo. 

When they got to the west wall Brigid crossed herself, 
for it was here the apparition had stood, and the others 
followed her example. They all said the Hail Mary, and 
then set about the practical task of finding bones. 
Bernadette was almost instantly successful, and held 
up in triumph a small spatula of bone, yellowed with 
age, which might have been identified by a competent 
ornithologist, but for the children was undoubtedly a 
veritable relic of St. Dingan. 

Brigid knew instinctively what ought to be done, for 
she was a good Christian child and well instructed in 
the Faith. She was the only one who possessed a 
handkerchief, a little piece of lilac coloured cambric 
embroidered in one corner with tiny pink roses which 
had been given her at Christmas, and which she carried 
about with her proudly though never putting it to its 
intended and vulgar use. This she laid flat on the 
ground, received the bone reverently from Bernadette, 
placed it in the centre of the handkerchief, and then she 
told them all to kneel, and led them in another Hail 
Mary. Finally she wrapped up the bone in the handker- 
chief, and they all set off for home. 

"This will cure grannie, surely," said Brigid. 

Only Michael John and Martin James cast one 
long, lingering look towards the rectory garden. The 
strawberries would have to wait until the morrow. 



20 



When old Mrs. Conneelly turned up at the firrt Mass 
of Corpus Christi the following morning at nine o'clock, 
there were many people in the village who thought that 
it was they who were seeing a vision. Mrs. Conneelly 
had been given up for dead many a month ago, and 
although the wake was delayed, it had been eagerly 
anticipated by many of her old cronies over glasses of 
porter in Mrs. King's, and by little groups gossiping 
in the hushed tones they always affected in Doyle's 
or Egan's grocery stores. 

"Lord bless us and save us, and how did you get here, 
Mrs. Conneelly?" 

Mrs. Conneelly was nothing loath to tell her story. 
Before the Corpus Christi procession at noon it had 
spread throughout the village, and after the procession 
it was carried as far as Roundstone and Clifden and 
even to Cashel. 

The children had come in the previous evening and 
told their story. They described St. Brigid, "the blue 
lady of the golden light", and how she had pointed 
them to St. Dingan's bones. Then they had produced 
the bone, decently wrapped in Brigid's handkerchief, 
and old Mrs. Conneelly had asked to hold it in her 
hand. Almost immediately, she said, she had felt the 

21 



power coming into her legs, and within a few minutes 
she had insisted on getting up from her bed and coming 
to sit by the fire. And as Mrs. Festus Joyce remarked, 
she looked good enough now to be thinking of taking 
another husband. 

Indeed, old Mrs. Conneelly had taken on a new lease 
of life. To remain permanently in bed, matriarch at 
one remove from the hurly-burly of affairs, from 
running after the cows, and feeding the hens, and 
baking soda bread, and boiling endless cauldrons of 
potatoes, from fetching turf from the stack on the bog, 
and washing Martin James and John Patrick, and 
mending the clothes that always seemed to be falling 
to pieces on them, had seemed at first a delightful 
solution to the problem of living. And the habit had 
grown until after a month or two Mrs. Conneelly had 
had little desire to get up. She enjoyed the visits of her 
old cronies, and the respect she was afforded as one 
about to embark on her last and longest journey, and 
most of all she enjoyed the fact that her daughter-in- 
law, a chit of a thing from Sligo her son had met while 
in camp with the F.C.A., and who thought herself a 
cut above the folk of Connemara, had to bring her all 
her meals and, as the phrase went, wait on her hand and 
foot. 

But the children's story, the apparition of St. Brigid 
and the finding of St. Dingan's bone, had suddenly 
made her conscious of the green and lovely world 
beyond her bedroom walls that she had, perhaps, too 
hastily abandoned. Like Persephone she came back 
from the underworld and, in spite of the rain which 
threatened, and which was to cause the abandonment 
of most of the Corpus Christi processions throughout 
Ireland, she found it a wonderful place to be back in. 

22 



At Mass she was paid almost as much attention as the 
Liturgy itself, and Fr. O'Toole faltered in a 
Dominus vobiscum when, in one of his brisk turns to the 
congregation, his eye fell on old Mrs. Conneelly in the 
second row on the left. 

The thrilling narrative of how she had held St. 
Dingan's bone and felt the power coming into her legs 
was everywhere repeated. And immediately after the 
procession, just as it was beginning to rain in earnest, 
Fr. Rooney called at the Conneelly cottage. 

The Church has never encouraged private revela- 
tions. Public revelation, which came to an end when 
the last Apostle died on Patmos, is addressed to the 
whole human race, and from this Treasury are pro- 
mulgated all the dogmas, belief in which is necessary 
to salvation. But private revelation is addressed to 
individuals or to groups of individuals for their own 
particular welfare and sometimes, as in the visions of 
St. Joan, for the welfare of others. Belief in them is 
never of obligation, whether they receive the approval 
of the Church or not, and nothing revealed by them 
becomes a part of Catholic dogma. Usually they are 
only vouchsafed to souls in an advanced state of 
holiness, but as the Reverend Fr. Poulain of the 
Society of Jesus has said, "God has at times manifested 
Himself to simple souls of quite ordinary virtue in 
order to found a pilgrimage or to suggest some useful 
undertaking." 

Fr. Rooney had no great wish for a pilgrimage to 
be founded in Ballydingan. After all, the locality was 
in little need of spiritual stimulants, for there were 
Croagh Patrick, Knock and Lough Derg all within 
a few hours' journey. He was perfectly happy to be 
the parish priest of an obscure if lovely little backwater 

23 



in the wilds of Connemara. He had everything he 
needed: a splendid church, a comfortable presbytery, 
an exemplary housekeeper, a zealous curate, a re- 
sponsive congregation, and to wind up the day he had 
his turf fire, his books, his pipe and his glass of whisky. 
He asked for nothing more. And now all this was 
threatened, for if the Conneelly children really had 
seen an apparition, or were able to convince the 
villagers that they had, then all hell, as Fr. Rooney 
phrased it to himself, would be let loose in the locality. 
And another feature of the affair which caused him 
considerable misgiving was that the apparition was 
said to have appeared in the grounds of the Protestant 
church, an oecumenical proceeding which the bishop 
would not like at all. 

"Good day to you, Michael," said Fr. Rooney. 

"Good day, Father," said Michael. He sounded a 
little apprehensive. In the cottage behind him there 
was a hushed silence. 

"Could I have a word with Brigid?" 

"They are out playing in the field, Father." 

Three minutes earlier they had all been in the house 
listening to old Mrs. Conneelly, who was describing, to 
a room packed with old women from away over the 
bog, how the power had come into her legs. The sight 
of Fr. Rooney coming up the boreen had sent the 
children flying out of the back door, all except John 
Patrick, who now toddled out past his father, though 
keeping a tight hold on his father's trouser leg, and 
said solemnly to Fr. Rooney: 

"Gan-gan better." 

"I hear she is," said Fr. Rooney. "Perhaps I 
could have a word with her, Michael." 

Seeing there was no help for it, Michael retreated 

24 



into the house, and all the old ladies stood up as Fr. 
Rooney came in after him. 

"Sit down, sit down," said Fr. Rooney. He had 
taken off his black hat and was shaking the rainwater 
on to the concrete floor. "I hear you were at the early 
Mass this morning, Mrs. Conneelly. Now isn't that a 
wonderful thing after I've been bringing you the Sacra- 
ment for the last two years." 

"Oh, Father, I owe it all to the blessed St. Brigid 
and to St. Dingan himself." 

"St. Dingan," said Fr. Rooney. "And what made 
you be thinking of St. Dingan?" 

Mrs. Conneelly needed no further prompting. She 
recounted the events of the previous evening with a 
wealth of picturesque detail. 

"But St. Dingan," said Fr. Rooney, when she had 
at last come to an end. "So little is known of St. Dingan." 

"But wouldn't he have a great well of mercy to 
refresh us with?" asked Mrs. Conneelly. "Because he 
has had it waiting all these years and no one has had 
the good of it." 

"It may be, it may be," said Fr. Rooney. It 
was on just these grounds that St. Jude suddenly 
achieved popularity not many years ago. "But can 
we be sure that it was St. Dingan?" 

"But who else, Father? Isn't it one of St. Dingan's 
very bones that worked the miracle on me?" 

Mrs. Conneelly's old cronies all nodded their assent. 

"Ah, yes, the bone," said Fr. Rooney. "Can I 
see it, please?" 

It was at this moment that the back door, which 
also opened directly into the living-room, was pushed 
open, and Brigid came in, propelled from the rear by 
her father. 

25 



"Brigid," said Fr. Rooney, "where is this bone you 
found last night?" 

"The bone, Father," said Brigid. "I'll get it, sure." 
And she disappeared into one of the bedrooms to 
reappear a moment later with a small box ornamented 
with shells. Lifting the lid she brought to view a small 
lilac-coloured handkerchief, and having carefully 
unwrapped this she displayed to Fr. Rooney's 
somewhat dubious gaze a small spatula of yellowed 
bone. 

Fr. Rooney could not have told you what he was 
expecting. In one sense he was not expecting or hoping 
for anything. The incursion of the supernatural into 
the quiet, ordinary life of Ballydingan was not something 
he would greatly welcome. But he could not be wholly 
sceptical. No Catholic priest could be. Consciously 
or unconsciously the bias is on the other side. He 
stretched out an exploratory finger and touched the 
bone. 

Instantly, he jumped quite visibly into the air. The 
old ladies who had been watching him with wide open 
if rheumy eyes and parted lips crossed themselves in 
unison, and one of them, as if to make assurance 
doubly sure, made the sign against the Evil Eye as 
well. 

Fr. Rooney had experienced something in the 
nature of an electric shock. It may have been wholly 
psychological, a triggering off of almost unconscious 
anticipation. But certainly Fr. Rooney experienced 
something. 

"The Lord bless us and save us," he said in a startled 
voice, becoming for a brief moment a small boy again 
on an upland farm in the wilds of Co. Mayo. 

"Lord bless us and save us," echoed the old crones 

26 



round the walls, crossing themselves vigorously. It was 
the best entertainment they had had for years, since, 
in fact, old man Doyle, now gone to his rest, had chased 
his wife down the village street with a chopper, and 
she in her nightdress. 

Fr. Rooney suddenly recollected his position as 
parish priest. 

"Brigid," he said, "put your coat on and walk down 
to the presbytery with me. And Bernadette had better 
come, too. Perhaps you would call her, Michael." 

Outside the rain had become a steady downpour. 
Fr. Rooney said nothing to the children as they 
walked along the boreen, past the Guards Barracks, and 
down the village street which was deserted except for a 
sorry-looking sheepdog and an old donkey belonging 
to Brendan Flaherty which was standing outside the 
post office. When they got to the presbytery Fr. 
Rooney asked his housekeeper to take their coats into 
the kitchen to dry them by the range, and marched the 
children into the sitting-room, where a small turf 
fire was burning. The children sat side by side on the 
black horsehair sofa across the window, and Fr. 
Rooney sat in his big leather armchair and regarded 
them gravely. 

"Now, Brigid," he said, "tell me just what happened 
last night." 



27 



On the previous day a depressed looking middle-aged 
man had arrived at Mr. and Mrs. Primby's guest house. 
He arrived in a cloud of alcoholic remorse, and had 
chosen the guest house because it was down in the 
hotel guide supplied by the Irish Tourist Board as 
having no licence. He gave his name as Joe Thompson, 
a name which meant nothing to Mr. and Mrs. Primby, 
but which would have been recognized immediately 
in an area roughly bounded by the Thames Embank- 
ment to the south, the Law Courts and Ludgate Circus 
to the west and east, and an indeterminate area of 
High Holborn to the north. For Joe Thompson was the 
star reporter of the Excess News Agency. 

It is of Joe Thompson that the famous story of the 
Mountjoy exhumation is told wherever a cub reporter 
can be found who has not yet heard it. Wagging tongues 
and anonymous letters had at last moved the Home 
Secretary to issue an exhumation order, and this had 
been arranged to take place late at night in the middle 
of November in the remote Lincolnshire churchyard 
where the remains of Mrs. Mountjoy had been decently 
if somewhat hurriedly interred on a wet afternoon the 
previous September. 

At eight o'clock in the evening Mr. Thompson came 

28 



through on the telephone from Lincolnshire to the 
office of the Excess News Agency and dictated his 
story to a stenographer with all the romantic colouring 
for which he was famous. The moon was rising, its 
eerie light fitfully illuminating the canvas screen round 
the grave behind which could be heard the clink of 
spades on loose gravel, and grim shadows were cast 
ever and anon by the light of flickering storm lanterns. 
At last the coffin had been raised, and the ghastly 
burden carried furtively past the little Gothic church 
where Mrs. Mountjoy had been married so many years 
before, and where still later had been recited over her 
mortal part the solemn Office for the Burial of the Dead. 
The story certainly made the most of the material 
available. 

Some two hours later Mr. Thompson had come 
through again. 

"You know that Mountjoy story, ole man?" he had 
said, his speech noticeably thicker, but still intelligible. 

"It's all right, isn't it?" asked an anxious sub-editor, 
who had sent it out on the teleprinters an hour before. 

" 'Sail right, ole man," said Mr. Thompson. 
" 'Squite all right. But it isn't going to happen now 
until tomorrow." 

Three or four times a year Mr. Thompson abjured 
the demon alcohol for ever, and took a week's holiday 
in some remote spot where he endeavoured to restore 
his ravaged tissues. Unfortunately it always seemed to 
to be a case of reader pour mieux sauter, and the cele- 
brations on his return to Fleet Street, which lasted for 
nearly twenty-four hours ending up in a Covent 
Garden hostelry at six o'clock on the following morn- 
ing, tended to nullify any benefit he might have 
obtained from the previous week's abstention. 

29 



On the morning of Corpus Christi, Mr. Thompson 
had so far recovered from the crossing (his regime was 
not scheduled to begin until he actually got to the 
guest house), as to be able to take a breakfast which 
consisted of three cups of tea and six aspirin, and by 
lunchtime he was almost completely conscious of his 
surroundings and even ventured on a plate of soup. 
Mr. and Mrs. Primby took their meals with their 
guests, the only other one at this time being a painter 
from Dublin whose name was Tim Hogan. It was thus 
that Mr. Thompson gradually became aware of the 
story of St. Dingan's bone, and the miraculous return 
of Mrs. Conneelly from what ought to have been her 
death bed. 

Mr. Thompson brooded on this story during the 
afternoon, lying on "his bed, while his insides battled 
with Mrs. Primby 's soup, and just after four o'clock 
he rose purposively and, refusing the cup of tea which 
Mrs. Primby fluttered out to offer him as he came 
downstairs, put on his old macintosh and his battered 
Anthony Eden homburg, and set out for the Conneelly 
cottage. He had no difficulty in finding it. In spite of 
the rain there was a sizeable crowd peering over the 
wall of the Protestant churchyard, and little groups of 
men and women coming and going on the boreen 
which ran between the rectory and Miss Maconochie's 
cottage. 

Events were moving fast; indeed they had already 
got out of Fr. Rooney's tentative efforts to control 
them. Brigid and Bernadette had come back from the 
presbytery strictly enjoined to silence until such time 
as Fr. Rooney could get a direction from the 
bishop. He had wondered what to do about the bone. 
If he insisted on taking charge of it,it would seem to the 

30 



village to set a seal of authenticity on it and, indeed, 
if it were a veritable relic of the village's eponymous 
saint, it ought to be received and deposited in the 
church with appropriate solemnity. Father Rooney 
compromised by charging Brigid to keep the bone 
safely out of the way until the bishop's wishes were 
made known. 

On getting back to the cottage, Brigid found that 
this course of action had become quite impossible. A 
second miracle had occurred within half an hour of her 
leaving for the presbytery, and now the bone in its 
box of shell was enshrined on the top of the press in the 
living-room with the little red Kelly lamp, which 
usually stood on a wall bracket in front of the oleograph 
of the Sacred Heartburning in front of it. 

Old Poric Mannion, whose right arm had been 
useless since he had had it mangled in a stone-crushing 
machine while working for the Council nearly ten years 
before, had come up and asked to hold the bone. His 
useless right hand, which he kept always in his jacket 
pocket, he hauled out with his left, and held palm 
upwards. Old Mrs. Gonneelly, a Sibyl as ancient 
almost as the earth of Connemara itself, took the bone 
from the box and placed it in his hand. As it touched 
his palm his fingers began to close over it. 

"Glory be to God!" he shouted. "It's the use has 
come into me hand." 

And now in Seamus King's bar, over his ninth pint of 
stout (none of which he had had to pay for after the 
first), he was recounting over and over again to an 
eager audience which never tired of the story how St. 
Dingan's bone had put the use back into his withered 
hand and arm, and over and over again he demon- 
strated how his fingers could now open and close and 

3i 



soon would be strong enough, with the help of God, to 
lift a glass of porter. 

Mr. Thompson had taken down Mrs. Conneelly's 
story, and then had heard from Brigid and Bernadette, 
on their return from the presbytery, how they had 
seen the apparition of St. Brigid the previous evening 
and discovered the bone. Now he was in Seamus 
King's bar, and his stomach had found peace over a 
third double Powers. It was no time, he told himself, 
to fuss about his health when a great story was break- 
ing. His best work had always been done on whisky. 
He called for drinks all round, and took another look 
at Poric's arm. 

There was a chorus of "Good lucks!" round the bar. 
Seamus King was wondering whether he might be able 
to borrow another barrel from his brother next door. 

"And you had no use in your hand at all?" Mr. 
Thompson asked Poric. 

"Never a bit," said Poric. "And I was in the 
hospital for three months, and it was in the plaster for 
all the rest of the year, and no good to me at all when 
it came out of it. I could never do anything with it. 
And old Mrs. Conneelly put the blessed bone on to 
me hand, and there me fingers began to move." 

"It was as useless as an old gate with broken hinges," 
said a man on Mr. Thompson's left. 

"Didn't his brother have to dress him for years?" 
asked another man on his right. 

"He helped to put the coat on me this morning," 
said Poric. 

"It's a very wonderful thing," said Mr. Thompson. 
He felt kindly towards the whole world. "Fill them up," 
he said to Seamus. "It's a great story." His heart 
overflowed with benevolence, and his eyes watered as 

32 



he thought what a beautiful world it was he was living 
in. He pushed his glass across the counter. "Fill it 
up," he said. "Fill them all up." 

And at six o'clock, as Fr. Rooney was laboriously 
compiling a letter to the bishop, Mr. Thompson was 
in the post office putting through a priority call to 
London. 



33 



5 



MIRACLE OF ST. DUNGAN'S BONES 

screamed The Daily Wire next morning. 

A CHILD SHALL SEE THEM 

The Announcer told its readers, while The Manchester 
Sentinel gave the story under the headline: 

CURIOUS HAPPENINGS IN CONNEMARA 

Even the Irish papers carried the story, though in a 
rather more restrained fashion, and they did not con- 
vey the impression, as did the English papers, that 
something had happened entirely outside the course 
of nature. It was no different in kind, they implied, 
from the news that President Sean T. O'Ceallaigh had 
on the same day received the Provincial Superior of the 
Oblate Order, and Corpus Christi processions had been 
abandoned because of the rain in most of the towns of 
Ireland. They had been able to gather little information 
other than that supplied by the Excess News Agency, as 
the Ballydingan exchange closed at eight o'clock when 
Miss Hegarty locked up and went home, leaving an 
emergency line open to the Guards Barracks. Sergeant 

34 



Donovan had informed the first three reporters who got 
through that he had no information, though admitting 
cautiously on being pressed that he had heard a Mrs. 
Conneelly had got up and gone to Mass after being 
in bed more than two years. When he had got rid of 
the third caller he asked the all-night exchange at 
Clifden to accept no more calls for Ballydingan unless 
it was a police emergency, and just after eleven he went 
to bed. 

The newspapers arrived in Ballydingan by CLE. 
lorry between 10.45 an d noon every day except Sunday. 
On this Friday morning Mr. Thompson was in Duffy's 
Bar, which was just across from the shop that sold the 
papers, impatiently awaiting them from soon after 
half past ten. He had wakened up with what, in any 
other person, would have been the father and mother 
of a headache, but which he accepted as a matter of 
routine, and an indication that he was back in harness. 
It was nothing that a cup of tea, a few aspirin, and an 
early snifter could not put right, and he was gratified 
to find that Duffy's Bar was open when he reached it, 
not having yet grasped the elasticity of the Republican 
licensing laws. 

When the papers at last arrived and he discovered 
that they consisted of The Press, The Independent, and five 
ordered copies of The Irish Times, he was indignant. 
Where, he asked, could he get the Mail and the 
Express, the Wire and the Sentinel? 

"It's the English papers you'd be after?" asked Mrs. 
Riley, who ran the paper shop, and also sold a variety 
of other goods including bread, cigarettes and sausages. 
"Well, now, you might get them in Galway." 

"And how do I get to Galway?" asked Mr. Thompson 
crossly. 

35 



"There's a five o'clock bus," said Mrs. Riley help- 
fully. "But you wouldn't be able to come back here 
until next Wednesday." 

"Oh my God!" exclaimed Mr. Thompson, entirely 
forgetting that he had chosen Ballydingan especially 
for its remoteness. "What a place to live in." 

"There will be a daily bus from the 24th of June," 
said Mrs. Riley, still trying to be helpful. 

Mr. Thompson gave a strangled cry. 

"And this is still May," he said. "I must have a 
taxi. Is there such a thing to be had?" 

"There's Doyle's Car Hire, but he's gone into Clifden 
and there's Vaughan up the street, and Paddy Ken- 
nedy. Paddy Kennedy is outside the post office just 
now." 

Distraught, Mr. Thompson rushed to the post office, 
and seizing the person he took to be Mr. Kennedy by 
the arm, demanded to be transported instantly to the 
City of Galway. 

"I'm afraid," said Mr. Freeman, who was wearing 
his black tie, "I'm not going into Galway today or I 
would have been delighted to take you. That is if 
Belinda and her friends left any room for another 
passenger, which they rarely do." 

"I thought you had a taxi," said Mr. Thompson. 

"Ah, no, my dear fellow, it's Paddy Kennedy you're 
wanting. He's passing the time of day with Miss 
Hegarty in the post office. I'm sure he'll be delighted 
to run you into Galway. Are you wanting to catch the 
afternoon train?" 

"I want to buy some newspapers," said Mr. 
Thompson. 

"Mrs. Kelly could let you have The Press and The 
Independent. And when the season gets going she'll 

36 



have a few spare copies of The Irish Times. There isn't 
much demand for it out here until the visitors arrive. 
I could let you have my copy this afternoon, my dear 
fellow, if that would be any good to you." 

"No, no. I want the English papers." 

"They aren't worth going to Gal way for, I assure 
you," said Mr. Freeman seriously. "They're what 
they call Irish editions, and they have very little more 
news in them than the real Irish papers. And it isn't 
news of any importance. But this is Paddy Kennedy if 
you want him." 

Leaving Mr. Thompson to make his arrangements 
with Paddy Kennedy, Mr. Freeman continued down 
the street to Mrs. Kelly's to collect his own paper. In 
the doorway he met Fr. Rooney coming out. 

"Good morning," Fr. Rooney said to Mr. Free- 
man. He looked upset. "I should like a word with 
you." He drew him out to the middle of the road where 
they could not be overheard by the customers in the 
shop. "Have you seen all the nonsense this wretched 
fellow, Thompson, is putting in the papers about 
us?" 

"I haven't seen my paper yet," said Mr. Freeman. 
"I was just on my way to collect it." 

"You heard about this bone which is supposed to be 
a relic of St. Dingan?" 

"Not a thing. You mean to say there are some bones 
of St. Dingan? I always thought he was a myth, like 
the Firbolgs and Eremon and Eber, and those sort of 
people." 

"Certainly not," said Fr. Rooney. "He lived for 
a time in St. Brigid's monastery at Kildare, and then 
came out here and built a little cell. Probably just 
below your churchyard." 

37 



"Did he now? And why has he suddenly got himself 
into the papers?" 

"You know the Conneelly children?" 

"I know them well," said Mr. Freeman. "Too well. 
I sometimes wonder why they don't all suffer per- 
manently from colic." 

"They claim to have seen an apparition of St. Brigid 
in your churchyard," said Fr. Rooney a little 
defiantly. He was well aware that Mr. Freeman did 
not believe in apparitions. "And she told them that 
St. Dingan's bones are there. They have a little rhyme 
which they say she taught them." And Fr. Rooney, 
like all true Gaels appreciative of verse, if a little 
undiscriminating, repeated the lines: 

"St. DingarCs bones 
Lie under these stones." 

"Rather doggerel," said Mr. Freeman critically. 

"An apparition or vision is always adapted to the 
capacity of the recipient," said Fr. Rooney stiffly. 
"But the point is that the children claim to have found 
a bone, and already it seems to have worked apparently 
miraculous cures. Old Mrs. Conneelly, the children's 
grandmother, got up and came to Mass yesterday 
morning," he added. 

This really shook Mr. Freeman. 

"Good heavens!" he exclaimed. "That old harridan 
about again. If she's opened my gate and driven her 
cows on to my lawn once she's done it a thousand times. 
I do call it unkind of St. Dingan or St. Brigid or whoever 
it was to bring her out into our midst again when she'd 
been safely in bed these two years or more. The sooner 
we get her back in bed the better." 

"And then there's Poric Mannion," said Fr. 

38 



Rooney. "The poor fellow who had his arm caught in 
the stone-crusher. He went up to Mrs. Conneelly's 
last night and was allowed to hold this bone, and now 
he's using his hand again." 

"A civil-spoken, quiet man," said Mr. Freeman. 
"I don't mind his getting the use of his hand back at 
all. But it's annoying about Mrs. Conneelly's legs. I 
don't know what St. Dingan could have been thinking 
about. And you say this all began in my churchyard?" 

"Your church is on a pre-Reformation site," said 
Fr. Rooney. "The original church was, in all 
probability, dedicated to St. Dingan. It's quite possible 
he was buried somewhere in the chancel." 

"Under the flagstones," said Mr. Freeman. "They're 
part of the old church, I believe. I suppose they would 
be the stones your apparition referred to. I hope," 
he added anxiously, "the Conneelly children haven't 
been digging up the chancel. I wouldn't put it past 
them." 

"They have not," said Fr. Rooney. "They found 
the bone in the churchyard." 

"Which means it belongs to wj-," Mr. Freeman 
pointed out. 

"That is arguable," said Fr. Rooney. "The pre- 
Reformation church was in communion with the 
Apostolic See." 

"If I remember rightly," said Mr. Freeman, "the 
early Celtic Church looked to the Greeks and the Copts 
rather than to Rome. Didn't they even keep their 
festivals on Greek dates and not on the Roman ones?" 

"I'll argue the history with ye another day," said 
Fr. Rooney. "The question is, what are we going 
to do?" 

"Well, you certainly can't dig my chancel up without 

39 



a faculty, and I can't see you applying for one to our 
diocesan Chancellor. I say let poor old Dingan rest 
in peace." 

"But that's just what this fellow, Thompson, isn't 
going to let him do. He's raising an absolute hornet's 
nest about our ears." 

Mr. Thompson was at that moment passing through 
Recess. At least he would have passed through if his 
eye had not fallen on a large enamel sign at the side of 
the road which read Guinness for Sale. 

"Stop!" he cried. "Stop! I suppose they sell whisky 
as well?" 

"They sell anything," said his driver. 

"Come and join me," said Mr. Thompson, clamber- 
ing out of the car. He felt better now he was on his way 
to Galway. The taxi would go down as expenses. 

"I'll wait here," said Paddy Kennedy. "I'm a 
Pioneer." 

Mr. Thompson looked at him suspiciously. This 
word to describe an Irish teetotaller was new to him. 

"Are there any more places of refreshment on the 
way?" he asked. 

"Loads of them," said Pat Kennedy. "But they're 
spaced out a bit, now." 

"Then I'll only have a quick one," said Mr. Thomp- 
son, and disappeared into the bar. 



40 



When Fr. Rooney got back to the presbytery he 
found an agitated Miss McHugh awaiting him by the 
front door. 

"Oh, Father," she said, "the Lord Bishop himself 
has been on the telephone, and will you speak to him 
as soon as you come in." 

"The Lord Bishop!" exclaimed Fr. Rooney. "Oh 
dear me!" 

As far as he could remember, the bishop had never 
spoken to him on the telephone before. 

Miss Hegarty had him put through in a remarkably 
short space of time, and the bishop must have been 
sitting with the telephone at his elbow, for he answered 
immediately in person. Fr. Rooney announced who 
he was. 

"You asked me to telephone you, my Lord." 

"I did indeed, Father. I was wondering what- 
ever is happening out at Ballydingan. Already 
I've had five telephone calls from London about 
you." 

"From London, my Lord?" 

"These newspaper fellows. They tell me an extra- 
ordinary story about someone finding a skeleton, and 
working miracles with it. Practically brought an old 

4i 



woman back from the dead, so I was told. What 
skeleton is it?" 

"It isn't a skeleton at all, my Lord. It's a very small 
piece of bone." 

"But whose bone is it?" asked his lordship, with just 
a hint of impatience in his voice. 

"It is -thought to be a relic of St. Dingan, my Lord." 

"St. Dingan, St. Dingan? I thought I knew all my 
Irish saints. St. Declan I know, and St. Kieran, and 
St. Columbcille. But, of course, your village must take 
its name from him. I shall have to look him up. What I 
want to know is, why has this bone suddenly turned 
up, and what are you doing with it?" 

"Perhaps I should have telephoned you, my Lord," 
said Fr. Rooney. "I didn't like to trouble your lord- 
ship on the telephone, and I had no idea there 
would be all this — this nonsense in the newspapers. 
I wrote to your lordship last night but the post only 
leaves the village at mid-day today." 

"I shall get it by the afternoon post, I've no doubt. 
But tell me about it now." 

"Some children claim to have seen an apparition of 
St. Brigid on the eve of Corpus Christi, and they say 
she directed them to the place where they found this 
bone. I'm very much afraid, my Lord," and here 
Fr. Rooney' s voice faltered a little, "she appeared by 
the west wall of the Protestant church, and it was 
there the bone was found." 

"Well, it was our church once. That only goes to 
prove it. I don't think it matters at all." The bishop 
gave a chuckle. "I don't think your Mr. Freeman 
will like it at all. But we shall have to hold an inquiry 
into this apparition. We can't have unauthorized 
apparitions and unauthorized bones." 

42 



:< Certainly not, my Lord." 

"That would be simply superstition, and Mr. 
Freeman would have a right to cavil at it. A genuine 
relic would be quite another matter. Have you in- 
spected this bone?" 

"I have, my Lord. And I may say it seems to give 
off a — it's difficult to describe, my Lord — a sort of 
power." 

* 'Indeed." The bishop was silent for a moment. 
"I think you'd better take charge of it. Don't put it 
in the church, of course, though you might lock it up 
in the sacristy. I'd better convene a Commission as 
soon as possible. Tomorrow if it can be arranged. If 
not, Monday. Let me see, I'll ask Fr. Driscoll, he's 
a great theologian, and your neighbour from Clad- 
daraw, Canon Donoghue. And you will make the third." 

"Yes, my Lord." 

"What time is your second Mass tomorrow?" 

"Nine o'clock, my Lord." 

"I think the best thing would be to get these children 
to attend the Mass, and then give them some breakfast 
in the presbytery. Have them at the sacristy at ten- 
thirty, or perhaps we'd better say eleven. Impress 
them with the solemnity of the occasion, but don't 
frighten them. Just tell them to be good Catholic 
children and to tell the truth. I'll telephone you again 
when I've made sure the others can come tomorrow." 

"Yes, my Lord." 

"Oh, and, Father, who is your local doctor?" 

"Dr. Neville is the dispensary doctor, my Lord." 

"A sound man?" 

"A very good man, my Lord." 

"Well, ask him privately his opinion of these people 
who claim to have had these miracles worked on them. 

43 



Medical opinion, of course. And specially ask him to 
examine them today, if possible, and let you have a 
report." 

"I will, my Lord." 

"As their parish priest, would you say they were 
honest, decent people?" 

"Oh, yes, my Lord. Both of them have always been 
most regular in performing their religious duties. At 
least, Mrs. Conneelly was until she became bedridden." 

"Well, that's something, certainly," said the bishop. 
"I only wish these newspaper fellows hadn't got hold 
of it. They don't want to increase devotion, they're 
only out for a sensation. How did the rain affect you 
yesterday, Father?" 

"It held off until after the Procession, my Lord." 

"I'm glad to hear it. I'm afraid we have had to 
postpone ours until Sunday. Well, I'll let you know if 
Fr. Driscoll and Canon Donoghue can come over 
tomorrow, and if not, we'll have to try to get them on 
Monday." 

And with that the bishop rang off. He was a kindly 
man, and knew with what dismay Fr. Rooney must 
be viewing this irruption into the quiet tenor of his days. 

Father Rooney had not yet had his breakfast, for he 
generally said the second Mass, and then read his 
breviary in the vestry before going home. This morn- 
ing the Mass had been at ten o'clock, and he had gone 
along to collect his newspaper before going back to the 
presbytery. Unfortunately his appetite had been 
destroyed. 

"I'll just have a cup of tea," he said to Miss McHugh, 
who was fluttering round him like a very old hen that 
has just had the surprise of her life by suddenly hatching 
a brood of chickens. 

44 



"Oh, Father, I've fried you two eggs, and I've some 
lovely fishcakes made out of a tin of salmon." 

They were interrupted by the telephone bell. 

"Hold on, Father," said Miss Hegarty's voice as 
Fr. Rooney lifted the receiver, and then a man's voice 
came on the wire. 

"Is that Mr. Rooney, the Vicar of Ballydingan?" 

"I suppose it is," said Fr. Rooney. "I'm the 
parish priest, if that is who you are wanting." 

"This is The Daily Wire speaking from London," said 
the voice importantly. "I hear you have a St. Duncan 
who has been working miracles in the parish. Could 
you tell me about him, please?" 

"St. Dingan," said Fr. Rooney. 

"Pardon me." 

"Dingan." Fr. Rooney spelt it for him. "He was 
a Celtic saint of the fifth century, and retired to this 
village for a little peace and quiet in the time of St. 
Patrick." 

"Fifth century!" exclaimed the voice. "Say, that's 
pre-historic." 

"It was certainly a long time before the English 
came here," said Fr. Rooney with relish. He was begin- 
ning to feel better. 

"Is it true that you have his skeleton preserved in 
your church?" 

"It is not," said Fr. Rooney. Something urged him 
to pass on the baby, though that is hardly how he 
would have phrased it to himself. "He's in Mr. Free- 
man's church, if he's anywhere, the Protestant rector. 
His mortal part, that is. His immortal part is in 
heaven." 

"That's very interesting," said the voice. "And is 
this Mr. Freeman the custodian of these bones?" 

45 



"For the moment he is," said Fr. Rooney. Rashly he 
added, "I believe we could claim them, but there would 
probably have to be a case in the High Court." 

"That's wonderful. Is this Mr. Freeman on the 
telephone?" 

"He is. Ballydingan one-four." 

"Thank you very much. Tell me, have there been 
any more miracles since yesterday?" 

"There have not," said Fr. Rooney. "At least," he 
added, for he was a truthful man, "if there have, 
nobody has told me about them yet. And it isn't 
correct to call them miracles until the Church has 
investigated all the circumstances and come to a 
decision about them." 

But The Daily Wire had rung off and was already 
asking Irish Services for Ballydingan 14. 

"I think I will have some breakfast," said Fr. 
Rooney, whom this conversation had unaccountably 
restored to his usual good humour. "What silly fellows 
some of these English are." 

He would have been horrified if he could have had a 
pre-vision of the headlines in the English newspapers 
of the morrow. 

"The English are honest enough," pronounced 
Miss McHugh, remembering six months in Birmingham 
a quarter of a century before, "but they have no 
morals." 



46 



7 



Mr. Freeman was discussing the matter of St. Dingan 
with Belinda in the morning room of the rectory. There 
was only a very restrained paragraph in The Irish Times 
in which it was said that news agency messages reported 
the finding of a relic of St. Dingan, the patron saint of 
the village of Ballydingan in Co. Galway, and it was 
asserted that various phenomena had been associated 
with it including a number of alleged cures. 

"It's our bone," said Belinda indignantly. "The 
Conneelly children had no right to take it from our 
churchyard." 

"It was certainly disastrous they tried it out on their 
grandmother," said her father. "We can only hope the 
effect wears off pretty soon." 

"Do you think it really is a bone of St. Dingan?" 

"I should say almost certainly it isn't. But I haven't 
seen it. And I don't suppose I should be any the wiser 
if I did see it." 

"I think you ought to go up to the Conneelly' s and 
claim it," said Belinda. 

"Good heavens, no!" exclaimed Mr. Freeman. "I 
have no wish whatever to set up as a witch doctor." 

"But it's not fair that other people should claim our 
miracles." 

47 



"Fr. Rooney was arguing that St. Dingan be- 
longed to them, but I pointed out the early Celtic 
Church was certainly not Roman. If you remember 
your early history, the Celtic Church in England and 
Wales had a fearful row with the Augustine when he 
went over in 597. And that was a hundred years after 
Patrick's time. They didn't cut their hair in the right 
way as prescribed by Rome, and they kept Easter on a 
different Sunday. And they didn't believe in giving a 
lot of power to the bishops. They kept them shut up 
in monasteries, very much like a Queen Bee in a hive. 
Sensible chaps," added Mr. Freeman. 

"But you ought to do something, Daddy," said 
Belinda urgently. "It's not right to let Fr. Rooney get 
away with it." 

"I should think poor old Rooney is praying hard the 
whole thing will soon be dropped. It won't be very 
nice for him if they start pilgrimages here, and all 
those hobbledehoy armies with banners and sodality 
pins in their lapels. Some priests might welcome it, 
but not Fr. Rooney. He's quite happy with Bally- 
dingan as it is, and so am I." Mr. Freeman shuddered. 
"They'd turn the place into a sort of holy Blackpool. 
I should apply for another job if anything like that 
happened. Life wouldn't be worth living here." 

"Oh no, Daddy." 

"Oh, but I would. I wouldn't stay here to see the 
place ruined. Everybody selling coloured postcards of 
the vision, and mementoes of St. Dingan, and specially 
blessed medallions and rosaries. You simply can't 
imagine what it would be like." 

It was at this moment that the telephone bell rang. 
The instrument was on a table in the hall, and Mr. 
Freeman went out to answer it. 

48 



"Hello, Miss Hegarty. How are you this morn- 
ing? What? A call from London? It must be my 
sister, but I can't imagine what she can be want- 
ing. 

There was a clicking noise followed by a buzzing, and 
then a voice said: 

"The London office of The Daily Wire here. Is that 
Fr. Freeman?" 

"You've got it wrong. I'm Mr. Freeman. You must 
want Fr. Rooney." 

"No, no. I've just spoken to him. Are you the rector 
of Bally dingan?" 

"I'm the Church of Ireland incumbent, yes." 

"We understand you are the custodian of a 
skeleton or part of a skeleton of a St. Dingan which 
has been performing marvellous cures. Is that cor- 
rect?" 

"No, it's not at all correct. I've got nothing to do 
with St. Dingan's skeleton, or his bone either, if it is 
his bone. If I did have it I'd see it was quickly and 
decently buried." 

"You don't approve of these people being cured 
with it?" 

"Come now," said Mr. Freeman, "that's rather like 
asking me if I've stopped beating my wife." 

"Pardon me." 

"I don't object to people being healed, but I wish 
they weren't quite so superstitious about it. There is a 
ministry of healing committed to the Church, but I 
don't think it was meant to be exercised through 
charms and relics and things like that." 

"That's very interesting, Mr. Freeman. Am I to 
take it that this bone was dug up without your 
consent?" 

49 



"It wasn't dug up at all as far as I know. It was 
found by some little demons— some little children -in 
the churchyard." 

"We hear that the Roman Catholic padre is going to 
sue you in the High Court for the return of this St. 
Dingan's skeleton." 

"Is he now?" said Mr. Freeman. "I'd gladly make 
him a present of it if I had it available, but I'm afraid 
the bishop would object. Our bishop, that is, not 
Fr. Rooney's." 

"There are two bishops?" inquired the voice. Plainly 
the man was getting a little out of his depth. 

"Don't you know the story of the two padres, Roman 
Catholic and Church of Ireland, who met during the 
war in the front line? And the Church of Ireland padre 
said, 'Ah, well, Father, we are both serving the same 
Master. You in your way and I in His.' They have a 
bishop and we have a bishop." 

"I see," said the other. Plainly he didn't see at all. 
"Then you will oppose the return of this skeleton to the 
Roman Catholics?" 

"If there are any remains of St. Dingan in my church, 
and I've no reason to believe there are, then they are 
most probably buried under the floor of the chancel. 
I should certainly object to my church being dug up to 
make a Roman holiday. In any case, if St. Dingan's 
bones were buried under my chancel, I think they 
ought to be allowed to remain there in peace." 

"Then we can quote you as saying you are opposed to 
these bones being dug up?" 

"If it's of any interest to anyone, you certainly can. 
But I can't see it's of all that importance. After all, 
poor old Dingan's bones, if they are there, must have 
been there for the last fifteen hundred years." 

50 



"Fifteen hundred years! Your church goes back 
fifteen hundred years?" 

' 'No, of course it doesn't," said Mr. Freeman, who 
was getting a little irritable. "It was a ruin in the 
seventeenth century, was rebuilt, and not many years 
afterwards burnt down. It was rebuilt about a hundred 
years ago. But the site's the same." 

"And you don't consider these bones an asset to 
your church?" 

"No, I don't," said Mr. Freeman, pulling a face at 
Belinda who was looking out of the morning-room 
doorway. "I don't approve of people going to church 
just to see someone's bones. You might as well put one 
of poor old Dingan's boots in a casket and gape at that. 
I'm not saying he wore boots, mind you. I'm just 
giving it as an illustration. He probably wore pam- 
pooties if he wore anything on his feet at all." 

"You have one of St. Dingan's boots?" 

"Oh dear," said Mr. Freeman. "I really must go. 
I'm very busy this morning, you must excuse me." 
And he rang off. "The man's a cretin," he said to his 
daughter. "Or do I mean a moron? But perhaps the 
line was bad, though I could hear him clearly enough 
this end." 

"What was it all about?" 

"It was a reporter on some London newspaper. He 
says Fr. Rooney is going to sue me for the custody of 
St. Dingan's bones. Let him try, that's all." 

"I've never heard such cheek!" exclaimed Belinda 
indignantly. 

"My dear girl, I don't suppose for one moment 
Fr. Rooney is going to do anything of the sort. He'd 
come and tell me first if he were thinking of doing 
such a thing. But these newspaper fellows have to 

51 



exaggerate so. It isn't a story as they call it unless they 
alter it out of all recognition." 

"Poor Fr. Rooney," said Belinda, who thought him 
rather a pet. "It's much worse for him when you 
come to think of it, because he has to take it all 
seriously." She glanced at the morning-room clock. 
"I must be off. I'm having lunch with William." 



52 



8 



If Fr. Rooney had gone straight to the Conneelly's 
he might have forestalled another miracle. But he went 
first to the dispensary. 

Dr. Neville was busy tying flies. He had been glad to 
see the rain because the spring had been very dry, and 
there were no fish running. He observed Fr. Rooney 
through the window and went to the door himself. 

"Good morning, Father," he said. "I hope it isn't 
professionally you've come to see me." 

"Good morning, John. I haven't come about myself. 
My health is good, thank God. I wanted to consult 
you about old Mrs. Conneelly and Poric Mannion." 

"Come in," said Dr. Neville. "I heard you had been 
taking the bread out of my mouth." 

"I wasn't responsible, I can assure you," said Fr. 
Rooney, when they were settled in the front room. 
"But I've had the bishop on the telephone." 

"That's bad," said Dr. Neville sympathetically. 

"Oh, he was quite friendly. But as he says, we shall 
have to make an inquiry. We can't allow unauthorized 
miracles, you know, and a Commission is coming out 
tomorrow. These Conneelly children, now. Would you 
say they were at all inclined to be hysterical?" 

"I would not," said Dr. Neville. "Quite the reverse. 

53 



They are just the little divils they ought to be at that 
age. 

"So I thought. The school is Fr. O'Toole's province, 
and I haven't seen very much of them. But from what 
I have seen I should agree with you." 

"Will you have a drop of something, Father?" 

"No, thank you, John. I never take anything on 
Fridays. But old Mrs. Conneelly, now. How ill was 
she?" 

Dr. Neville considered for a moment. 

"She'd kept to her bed for two and a half years," 
he said. "I must confess I was very surprised to see her 
at Mass yesterday. I should have expected considerable 
muscular atrophy. But, of course, she may have been 
getting up and walking about in her bedroom without 
anyone being the wiser. I don't say she has, mind you, 
but I've never had occasion to examine her thoroughly. 
There's never been anything very much the matter 
with her general health, except a touch of bronchitis." 

"And Poric Mannion?" 

"He had a hundred per cent disability in his right 
arm ten years ago. The nerves and tendons were 
completely severed. It was a wonder his arm hadn't to 
be amputated. It would have been if he hadn't 
objected so vigorously." 

"Then you think that something definitely happened 
in his case?" 

"I'm not sceptical, Father, but there could be 
another explanation. Nerves have been known to join 
up again after a number of years. I'm not saying that's 
what happened, but just that it could happen. We 
don't even know what it is makes a broken bone knit 
up. There doesn't seem any reason why it should." 

"Handling this bone brought things to a head, 

54 



perhaps? Well, John, the grace of God would be in it 
either way." 

"Certainly it would, Father." 

"I should be glad if you would examine them both 
today, and let me know what conclusions you come to." 

"I will, Father." 

"We are sustained by a perpetual miracle all our 
lives if we did but realize it," said Fr. Rooney. He 
got up. "I wouldn't like this place to be altered, John," 
he said. "It isn't very different today from what it was 
in St. Dingan's time." 

"There wouldn't be quite so many bars then," said 
Dr. Neville. 

"Every cabin would make its own poteen in those 
days," said Fr. Rooney with a smile. "There were 
no Customs and Excise in the days of good King 
Laoghaire." 

About half an hour before this, Mrs. Burke had gone up 
the path to the Conneellys' cottage with her son, Brendan. 
She had been working in London in 1939 when the war 
broke out, and in 1 940 had married a sergeant in the 
Irish Guards. He had been killed in 1944, in the early 
days of the invasion of France, and three months later 
Brendan had been born. The house in which Mrs. 
Burke was lodging in the Fulham road had been almost 
demolished by a flying bomb, and though Mrs. Burke 
had only received superficial injuries, her son had 
arrived six weeks before his time. It was some months 
before his mother noticed that he did not seem very 
lively, and he was more than a year old before she 
realized he was dumb. He would lie looking up at the 
ceiling, or sit with his gaze fixed straight ahead of him, 
and though he did not appear to be deaf, for he would 
do what he was told and winced at the slightest noise, 

55 



he never uttered a murmur. In Ballydingan, where 
Mrs. Burke returned to her father's cottage and was 
living on her small pension from the British Govern- 
ment, he was said to be amada?i, which has the same 
general connotation as the Yorkshire expression, gorm- 
less. When the men were working on the road, Brendan 
would stand for hours watching them, and often they 
would bring him a few sweets, or share their lunch 
with him. 

Mrs. Burke, like everyone else in the village, had 
heard of St. Dingan's bone, and with a desperate hope 
in her heart she had decided to take Brendan to Mrs. 
Conneelly's. With her right hand she held Brendan's 
left, and in her other hand she clutched an old leather 
purse in which was the sum of one pound seventeen 
shillings, all the money she had at that time in the 
world. 

Mrs. Conneelly had been revolving in her mind the 
question of the use of the bone. The more miracles that 
it wrought, the less each one would be valued, and her 
own, the first and what might have been the unique 
miracle, would be thrust into the background and for- 
gotten. Already she was dividing the honours with 
Poric Mannion, who was displaying his arm to admir- 
ing crowds in all the bars of Ballydingan. She was also 
vaguely afraid that the bone might possess just so much 
power and no more, and once that power was used up 
it would be no good to her or to anyone else. Even her 
own legs might go back on her. 

When she saw Mrs. Burke in the doorway, across 
whose eager, desperate face fear and hope alternated 
like cloud and sunlight over the bog, she hadn't the 
heart to say no. If her legs went back on her they went 
back on her. 

56 



"Welcome," she said. 

"God save all here," said Mrs. Burke, who had long 
ago sloughed off the three years she had washed-up in a 
London teashop, and had reverted to the polite usages 
of the farther West. "God bless us all." 

The house seemed crowded with people, for there 
were two friends of old Mrs. Conneelly's sitting by the 
fireside, and the five children home from school, and 
young Mrs. Conneelly doing some washing in a corner 
by the back door with John Patrick holding tight to her 
skirts, and Michael at the table in the window eating 
his dinner, a sheepdog at his feet watching his every 
mouthful, and at least three hens picking round the 
floor. 

Mrs. Burke dropped her voice. "I was wondering," 
she said to old Mrs. Conneelly, "whether Brendan 
could have a hold of the holy bone." 

"He can, surely," said Mrs. Conneelly, and if charity 
covers a multitude of sins, she worked her passage into 
heaven at that moment. 

Michael stopped eating. His wife stopped washing. 
Everyone in the room watched with an air of expect- 
ancy as old Mrs. Conneelly lifted the shell box rever- 
ently from the top of the press. 

"Kneel down, Brendan," said Mrs. Burke. 

Obediently Brendan knelt down on the concrete 
floor. 

"Holy Mother of God, help him," said Mrs. Burke. 
"Help my poor Brendan." 

Old Mrs. Conneelly opened the box, and held the 
bone out in front of him. 

"Kiss it, Brendan," said Mrs. Burke. The urgency 
in her voice must have rung round the Celestial City 
itself. 

57 



Brendan bent forward and did as he was told. Then 
he looked up at his mother. 

" bone," he said. 

The adjective, not to be found in even the most un- 
inhibited dictionary, must have been treasured up in 
his memory from long sessions with the roadmen. 

Old Mrs. Conneelly dropped the box. 

Instantly Bob, the sheepdog, darted forward, seized 
the box, and disappeared through the open front door. 

" dog," said Brendan. 

For a moment there was consternation. Then the 
children all ran out after the dog, followed by their 
father. The old ladies by the fireside began rocking 
themselves to and fro, keening loudly as they did so. 

Mrs. Burke alone took no notice of what was going 
on around her. She dropped to her knees and gathered 
Brendan into her arms. 

"My precious boy," she said. "My precious, precious 
boy." 

"Dinner," said Brendan, slowly and distinctly. 
"Dinner." 

Mrs. Burke, in order to make sure of closing every 
loophole through which a malignant fate might seek to 
outwit her, had insisted that her son should fast from 
bedtime the previous evening. 

It was at this instant that Fr. Rooney came up the 
path to the cottage. For a moment, hearing the keen- 
ing, he was under the impression that old Mrs. Con- 
neelly must have suddenly died. He was reassured 
when the old woman herself appeared in the doorway. 

"Oh, Father," she cried. "The dog has run away 
with the bone." 



58 



Belinda found William waiting for her at Lord Round- 
stone's drive gate. 

"Hullo, William," she said, jumping off her bicycle. 

"Hullo, Linda." Her father was the only person who 
gave her her full name. "Leave your bike here." 

Belinda propped her bicycle against one of the gate- 
posts. Few people, except tinkers, ever steal anything 
in Ireland, though they may borrow this or that item 
for indefinite periods, and often without the owners' 
knowledge or consent. Bicycles, however, are not 
among such items. They are too easily traced by the 
Guards. 

"What's all this about St. Dingan's bone?" William 
asked as they walked up to the house. "Uncle saw some 
rot about it in The Irish Times" 

"Those frightful Conneelly children who are always 
after our gooseberries say they saw a vision on Wednes- 
day night, and they found a bone which they claim is 
St. Dingan's." 

"I can remember raiding your gooseberries once," 
said William reminiscently. "It was ten years ago, just 
before you came here. I must have been eight." 

"I wouldn't mind if they only did it occasionally," 
said Belinda. "But they're at it all the time, and we 

59 



have to pick them long before they're ripe or there 
wouldn't be any left to pick." 

"Living a mile outside the village has its advantages. 
But tell me about St. Dingan. I never knew before 
there was such a person." 

Belinda told him all she had gathered from her 
father, and how old Mrs. Conneelly had got up and 
gone to Mass, and how Poric Mannion had the use 
back in his hand. 

"They all say they are miracles," she ended up. 

"I don't know about old Mrs. Conneelly," said 
William. "I expect she could have got up at any time 
if she'd really wanted to. But Poric's arm was all 
withered. He once showed it to me in Duffy's Bar, and 
he seemed quite proud of it." 

"The ghastly thing is, if many more of these miracles 
happen,people will simply flock here. And then Daddy 
says he'll leave." 

"Oh, no!" 

"If it got really bad I'm sure he would. We've got to 
do something about it." 

William stopped abruptly in the middle of the drive. 
He was very fond of Belinda, and although he was 
going to Cambridge in October, the holidays at Bally- 
dingan without her would be a desolation. It didn't 
bear thinking about. 

"What can we do?" he asked. 

"I think we'd better get Patricia, and have a council 
of war." 

"We'll go out and get her this afternoon," said 
William. "As soon as lunch is over." 

They found Lord Roundstone sitting on a camp 
stool under the porte-cochere mending a wheelbarrow. 
Beside him was a large box of tools. He had' the wheel- 

60 



barrow upside down and was trying to replace one of 
the struts that held the axle. When he saw Belinda he 
got up and greeted her warmly, though they had last 
met not twenty-four hours before at tea. 

"I hear they're seeing visions in your father's church- 
yard," he said. "I don't know what my father would 
have had to say about it. He wouldn't have liked it at 
all." 

"I don't think Daddy does," said Belinda. "He says 
it will turn Ballydingan into a holy Blackpool." 

"God forbid," said Lord Roundstone. "Though I 
hear old Mrs. Conneelly and that fellow, Mannion, 
have benefited by it. Upon my word, I'm seriously 
thinking of trying the bone out on my sciatica." 

"I don't think that's at all the right spirit in which to 
approach St. Dingan," said William. 

"Nonsense, my boy," said his uncle. "As I see it, it's 
a purely commercial transaction, though perhaps com- 
mercial is hardly the word I want. There is St. Dingan 
with a reservoir of good works to be tapped, and here 
am I wanting to tap it. Which is done by faith. And 
the medium he uses is this bone of his." 

"I wish those Conneelly children had never found 
the bone," said Belinda. 

"Oh, come," said Lord Roundstone. "It's done 
some good to Mrs. Conneelly, and to Poric Mannion." 

"I suppose it has," said Belinda. "But we don't want 
hundreds of people swarming round Ballydingan and 
spoiling it." 

"Ah, well," said Lord Roundstone. "I think I shall 
try it on my sciatica." He took Belinda by the arm. 
"Come along and hear my latest recording. It's Miss 
Maconochie reciting one of her poems. It's quite the 
best I've done yet." 

61 



Electricity (the E.S.B. as it is known in Ireland) had 
come to Ballydingan at last in the early spring, and 
among other things, Lord Roundstone had invested 
in a tape-recorder. He collected the voices of his friends, 
and things that appealed to him on the radio. They 
went into the library, and Lord Roundstone switched 
on the machine. 

"I don't know the woman," he said. "I cribbed this 
from Radio Eireann last night." 

The rich contralto of the Connemara poetess 
boomed through the library. Her heart was a white 
gull, and then it was suddenly a boat borne out on a 
dark tide, and then it was a silvery fish far down in the 
cool caverns of the sea. 

"Yeats and soda-water," said Lord Roundstone. 
"There was an even funnier one before that, but I 
didn't get the machine going in time." 

An elderly parlour maid put her head in at the door 
and announced that lunch was ready. 

"I haven't got your father yet," said Lord Round- 
stone to Belinda. "I shall have to get him to do a talk 
on St. Dingan." 

Lunch consisted for Lord Roundstone of nut cutlets, 
and for William and Belinda of real lamb cutlets. 
Lord Roundstone had been converted to vegetarianism 
in his theosophical period, and had gone on with it, 
although occasionally he would eat fish. But as he liked 
fish, he never ate it on Fridays. After the cutlets they 
had rhubarb tart and cream. 

When lunch was over William got out his car, which 
was a second-hand baby Fiat, and they set off along the 
Clifden road to Colonel Martin's, Patricia's father. 

Patricia was what Lord Roundstone, whose vocabu- 
lary was a little old-fashioned, called a blue-stocking. 

62 



She was tall and rather thin, and had a round, serious 
face made to look still more serious by reason of a pair 
of horn-rimmed spectacles. She always wore unbecom- 
ing clothes, and never went anywhere, even to a lunch 
or tea engagement, without a book. When she went 
into Clifden shopping with her mother, she would sit 
in the lounge of the Bay Hotel reading avidly until her 
mother had finished and was ready to go home. She 
had also very decided views about religion, being what 
in Ireland would be thought of as High Church. She 
even thought Mr. Freeman ought to turn to the east 
when he recited the Creed, a proceeding which would 
have scandalized the rest of his congregation. 

Though the morning had been fine, a high wind had 
sprung up and it had begun to rain again, so they held 
their conference in the Martins' potting shed at the 
bottom of the garden. Belinda and Patricia sat on the 
edge of the bench on which the potting was done, and 
William sat on the wheelbarrow, which was a rather 
more substantial one than that of Lord Roundstone. 

Patricia had heard nothing about the vision or the 
miracles, not having been into the village for two 
days, and not having looked at the morning's paper, 
so they had to begin at the beginning and tell her the 
whole story. 

"So you see/' said Belinda, in conclusion, "if we 
can't put a stop to it, Daddy says he will leave and get 
another parish." 

"Oh, dear," said Patricia, who would miss her almost 
as much as would William. "We can't let that happen. 
But what can we do?" 

"Couldn't we get hold of this bone somehow, and 
then bury it?" suggested William. 

"I should say it's almost impossible," said Belinda. 

63 



"There are such a lot of Conneellys. Michael John 
sleeps on the sofa in the sitting-room, and I think 
Martin James has a bed in there, too." 

"Couldn't your father borrow it, and then say it was 
his, and refuse to give it back?" asked Patricia. 

"There'd be an awful row if he did," said Belinda. 
"They'd probably come and burn the rectory down to 
show their disapproval." 

"Yes, I suppose it means quite a lot to them," said 
Patricia. "They're not rational beings like us. And if 
you ask me, most of them are thinking of what they 
are going to get out of it. The hotels, and the bars, and 
the shops would all love the crowds to pour in." 

"It's awful to think of," said Belinda feelingly. 

"I've been wondering," said William. "Couldn't we 
get up a vision ourselves that would tell them to let 
St. Dingan rest in peace?" 

"You mean one of us dress up?" asked Patricia 
practically. 

"Well, yes, something like that." 

"It might be done." Patricia wrinkled up her nose, 
a sure sign she was thinking deeply. "It would have 
to be nearly dark. How late are the Conneelly children 
out?" 

"They're in the dingle below the churchyard at all 
hours," said Belinda. "But sunset isn't till about half 
past nine." 

"Some evenings are darker than others," William 
pointed out. 

"Yes, but then it's likely to be wet," said Belinda, 
"and they wouldn't stay long in the dingle if it was 
raining." 

"It's worth trying," said William. 

"We would have to have a verse they could easily 

6 4 



remember," said Patricia. "A minatory sort of verse." 
She shut her eyes and then said: 

"Replace the bone 
Under the stone." 

Belinda clapped her hands. 

"Why shouldn't William dress up as St. Dingan? 
All he wants is a beard and a sort of smock tied round 
the middle with a rope. And then he could say: 

1 Replace my bone 
Under the stone.'' " 

"Oh, I say!" exclaimed William. "I'm not much 
good at amateur theatricals." 

"It's a much better idea," said Patricia. "Of course 
it must be William. Because, you see, if the Conneelly 
children really did see a vision, then we should pro- 
bably not look a bit like the original one, and they'd 
be suspicious. And besides, I'm blind as a bat without 
my glasses, and I'm almost sure they didn't wear 
spectacles in St. Brigid's time. You simply will have to 
be St. Dingan, William, and there's a lovely red beard 
in that dressing-up trunk you have at home." 



65 



10 



There was consternation throughout Ballydingan when 
it was heard that the bone had been lost, after having 
conferred on Brendan Burke the gift of speech. 

Mrs. Burke had taken her son home to a long- 
anticipated dinner of boiled pollock after trying in 
vain to leave the one pound seventeen shillings she 
had brought with her on the Conneelly's table among 
the potato skins. But the Irish are not a mercenary 
people, except over the buying and selling of cattle, 
and old Mrs. Conneelly utterly refused to accept it. 
Mrs. Burke finally compromised by giving Brigid a 
shilling to buy some sweeties, when she passed her, 
still searching for the bone, and she put some further 
coins into the box in front of the statue of the Blessed 
Virgin when she called in at St. Joseph's on the way 
home. 

Fr. Rooney had gone back to the presbytery not 
at all sure whether to be relieved or sorry that the 
bone had disappeared. It would not affect the Commis- 
sion which was to sit on the morrow, because its main 
task would be to establish whether or not the Con- 
neelly children had seen a genuine apparition, but, of 
course, if the apparition had led to the discovery of the 
bone, and had been vouchsafed for that very purpose, 

66 



and it was established that the bone had worked 
miracles, then it was a relevant factor to be taken into 
account by the assessors, and he ought to have been 
able to produce it. 

Brigid Conneelly had at last found the shell box on 
the bog which stretched away towards the hills at the 
back of the house, and, a little farther on, her lilac- 
coloured handkerchief. But of the bone there was no 
trace. It seemed highly possible, though no one cared 
to voice the suggestion, which appeared to border on 
the sacrilegious, that Bob had eaten it. 

Around five o'clock, Mr. Thompson arrived back 
from Galway, and on hearing about Brendan Burke 
and the loss of the bone set off immediately for Mrs. 
Burke's cottage. Mrs. Conneelly he would interview 
later. Unfortunately he found Mrs. Burke wholly 
non-co-operative, unlike the wives and sweethearts of 
murderers and other Press heroes who, in England, 
were only too eager usually to get their pictures in the 
paper. Actually the poor woman was afraid that the 
powers-that-be, which the whole course of her life 
had led her to think of as capricious and even malig- 
nant, might yet get the better of her if she gave them 
the least chance. 

When Mr. Thompson, in rather a bad temper, got 
back to the village he was surprised to see a whole fleet 
of cars stretching from Egan's Hotel, almost opposite 
St. Joseph's, to Duffy's Bar, half-way up the hill. If 
his knowledge had extended to such matters he would 
have realized that they were all carrying Dublin 
registration plates. However, from the noise emanating 
from Egan's Bar, which sounded like a Spanish bull-ring 
at the end of a corrida, he made the right deduction. Fleet 
Street had arrived in force in the village of Ballydingan. 

6 7 



There were shouts of acclamation as he entered the bar. 

"Good old Joe!" "Hiya, Thompson!" "What are 
you having, Joe?" 

There was Barry of the Press, and Murgatroyd of the 
Wire, and Boothby of The Sun, and Smith of Picture 
Weekly, and Simmonds of Worldwide, and two photo- 
graphers he only knew by sight. 

"How did you get here?" Thompson asked of Barry, 
who was nearest to him. "Double Scotch, please." 

"He hasn't any Scotch, you'll have to have Irish. 
It's all right with water. We flew over this morning." 

"There are no damn trains," said Smith, "so we've 
all had to hire cars. They gave us a cheer as we went 
through Athlone; I think they took Simmonds for the 
President." 

"And now Mr. Egan here says this bone has been 
lost," said Murgatroyd. "What have you been doing 
with it, old boy?" 

"I've only just got back from Galway myself," said 
Thompson. "You can't get newspapers in this place. 
But the bone worked a miracle before it was lost. 
A boy who had been dumb since birth. His mother 
wouldn't let me speak to him, but I'm told he has said 
quite a few words this afternoon." 

"Who's this?" everyone demanded of Mr. Egan, who 
told them, and also where Mrs. Burke lived. There 
was a wild stampede out of the bar, a whirring of self- 
starters and a crashing of gears. 

When Mrs. Burke saw seven purposeful men coming 
up the boreen — they had left their cars in the main 
road, thinking discretion the better part of valour — 
she shut and bolted the front door of the cottage. It 
was a whitewashed cottage with a thatched roof, one 
of the few remaining in Ballydingan. The back door 

68 



was already shut to keep the donkey out, but she went 
across and locked that as well, and put a chair against 
it to make sure. She had overlooked the fact that 
Brendan, who was in his bedroom, could open his 
window. When he heard the knocking on the door 
he opened it and put his head out. Instantly the 
reporters gathered round him. 

"Are you the little boy who couldn't speak?" asked 
one of them. 

Brendan nodded vigorously. 

"And can you speak now?" 

Brendan nodded again. 

"It's a miracle!" exclaimed Murgatroyd of the Wire. 

"Let him say something," said Barry. "Be quiet, you 
fellows." He held out a two-shilling piece. "Would 
you like this?" he asked. 

Brendan nodded more vigorously than ever. 

"Well, for God's sake say something," Barry urged 
him impatiently. 

" bone!" said Brendan distinctly. 

"A ruddy miracle!" said Barry. "What a voca- 
bulary!" 

Mrs. Burke appeared beside her son at the window. 

"Go away," she said. "Please go away." 

"Just let us take a photograph, mother," said Smith 
of Picture Weekly. "It won't hurt him." 

Already the shutter of one camera had clicked, and 
before Mrs. Burke could pull Brendan in, Smith had 
secured a second photograph. After milling round the 
cottage and considerably startling the donkey, which 
was lying across the path and which two of them fell 
over, they all returned to the village. Some went up to 
Holy Trinity churchyard, and some went off to inter- 
view old Mrs. Gonneelly. Only Barry went back into 

69 



Egan's Bar and ordered a double Irish. Mr. Thompson 
had gone across to the post office to do some tele- 
phoning. 

"This St. Dingan, now," said Mr. Egan, handing 
over the whisky. "He belongs to us." 

"To you!" exclaimed Barry. 

"To the Catholics." 

"Oh, I see." 

"He was only buried up in the Protestant church 
because it was the Catholic church then, surely." 

"You mean," said Barry, who had not yet grasped 
the whole story, having only very cursorily glanced 
through the news agency report, "there are still some 
remains of this St. Dingan buried in the Protestant 
church?" 

"So it is said," Mr. Egan agreed cautiously. 

"Well, what are you worrying about, then? Some of 
you want to go up and claim him. If one bit of a bone 
has worked these miracles, what couldn't a whole ruddy 
skeleton do?" The reporter of The Daily Press could 
hardly restrain his excitement. "What a story," he said. 
"Boy, what a story!" 

Mr. Egan was one of those who would welcome the 
idea of the whole world flocking into Ballydingan. He 
had seven beds to let and three more if the family 
turned out temporarily into the cowshed which had a 
good, dry loft. Already three of the reporters had 
booked in for the week-end, and the price of their drinks 
had come to more than he had taken during the whole 
of the week so far, even though it had included a Holy 
Day. 

"They are our bones, surely," he said again. 

"You must organize some of the boys," said Barry. 
"Where is everybody?" 

70 



"They're all on the bog," said Mr. Egan. 

"On the bog!" Mr. Barry nearly knocked his glass 
over. At the school he had attended in his formative 
years this had been the current euphemism for a 
different place altogether. "All of them?" 

"Cutting the turf," said Mr. Egan. "They'll be back 
around eight or nine." 

"Turf is peat, I suppose?" queried Barry, anxious to 
get his local colour right. "How does it burn?" 

"It burns well enough," said Mr. Egan. "There's 
some on the fire behind you." 

Barry turned to see a thin trickle of smoke coming 
from what looked like the sort of stuff his wife bought 
in the late autumn to plant bulbs in. 

"Wonderful," he said. It made him feel suddenly 
cold just to see it. "But what do you do when you want 
a real fire?" 

"You get a good enough blaze with dry sods," said 
Mr. Egan. "Those are from the year before last, and 
they've never dried out properly." 

At this moment two men came into the bar rather 
furtively, as Irishmen are somewhat prone to do in the 
hours of daylight, as if drinking were an activity hover- 
ing on the brink of at least venial sin. 

"How do you do," Barry said. 

"Good night," said one of them. The other remained 
silent. 

"What will you have?" 

"Pint o' draught," said the one who had already 
spoken, showing a little more animation. His com- 
panion nodded agreement. 

"Mr. Egan and I were discussing this bone," 
said Barry. "The loss is a great tragedy for the 
village." 

7* 



"The old woman should have given it to the priest," 
said the man who had already spoken. 

"But I understand the greater part of St. Dingan is 
still buried in the Protestant church," said Mr. Barry. 
"So the bone could be replaced. Have another pint. 
It's on the Press" 

"You the Irish Press?" asked Mr. Egan. 

"No, no, the London Daily Press." 

"I take the Irish Press " said Mr. Egan. "I can't say 
I know the London one." 

"Good heavens! We have a circulation of over three 
millions." 

"My son in England sends us the News of the World 
now and then. But sometimes the Customs take it when 
they are hard up for a read, bad luck to them." 

There was a sudden diversion. A car was heard to 
draw up outside, and a* moment later a uniformed 
chauffeur put his head in at the door. 

"Is this the best hotel?" he asked. 

"For what?" asked Barry. "The drinks are good, 
but there's no Scotch." 

Pushing past the chauffeur, a large lady looking very 
like a pouter pigeon stepped into the bar. She was 
wearing a picture hat with an ostrich feather curled 
round it, an enormous silver fox fur over a beige 
coloured summer coat, and she had six coils of pearls 
under her three chins. 

"My name is Mrs. John K. Shotter and I come from 
Milwaukee, Wisconsin," she said. "I'm doing a tour 
and I heard about this St. Dingan, so we've driven up 
from Parknasilla today." 

Mr. Barry was wearing a rather battered trilby 
which he had not yet removed from his head since he 
had arrived. Now he swept it off and said: 

72 



"Will you have a drink with me, madam? I represent 
the London Press." 

Mrs. Shotter glanced a little dubiously round the 
bar, and even more dubiously at Mr. Barry's two 
companions, whose appearance was not enhanced by 
the fact that they looked as if they were trying to make 
up their minds whether to grow beards or to remain 
clean- shaven. 

"Is this the best hotel?" she asked. 

"There's Vaughan's up the street," said Mr. Egan, 
"but two of his children have measles." 

"Have you hot and cold water in every room?" 
asked Mrs. Shotter. 

"We have not," said Mr. Egan. "You'd have to be 
going to Ballynahinch or to the Bay Hotel at Clifden." 
He came round from behind the bar with a wooden 
chair. "Would you care to sit down, madam?" 

"And what about that drink?" asked Mr. Barry. 

Mrs. Shotter sat down, looking very opulent and 
rather out of place. 

"Have they Bourbon?" she asked. 

"They have not," said Mr. Barry, who was fast 
acquiring the local idiom. "But the Gold Label is good." 

"I'll have it on the rocks," said Mrs. Shotter. 

"I don't think there's any ice." 

But Mr. Egan was able to rise to the occasion. 

"They have some in the ice-cream machine next 
door," he said. "If you will wait a moment I will get 
some." He went out and very quickly reappeared with 
a small block of ice which he proceeded to break under 
the counter with the mallet he used for broaching the 
guinness casks. Mrs. Shotter took a sip of her drink and 
nodded approvingly. The chauffeur had gone back to 
the car. 

73 



"I've had a pain in my back for the last five years," 
she said. "They've treated me for everything, from 
lumbago to slipped discs. I've been in hospitals and 
clinics, I've had ultra violet and infra red, and I've had 
more than a dozen different diets. Nothing does me 
any good. So I thought I'd try this St. Dingan's bone. 
I suppose you don't have to be a Catholic for it to take 
effect, do you?" 

"I don't know," said Mr. Barry. "But I'm afraid 
you won't be able to make the experiment. The bone 
has been lost." 

"Lost! Now isn't that too bad. Land's sakes, what 
happened? How could you lose a thing like that?" 

"It seems a dog ran away with it, just after it had 
done another miracle." 

"Well, isn't that just too bad, and after I've come all 
the way from Parknasilla." 

"But," said Mr. Barry, "the rest of the old boy's 
skeleton, which should be every bit as efficacious, if not 
more so, is buried in the Protestant church." 

"Say," said Mrs. Shotter. "What are we waiting 
for?" 



74 



11 



mrs. primby was a firm believer in the occult, that is, in 
all forms of occultism that came to her notice. It may 
be that she felt in her rather muddled way that the 
phenomenal world was such a very peculiar place, the 
reality behind the phenomena must be even more 
peculiar, and peculiar methods of exploration and 
research were more likely to arrive at the truth than the 
more orthodox approaches of logic and orthodoxy. As 
she was wont to observe to Mr. Primby, "There's 
more in things than meets the eye," and another of her 
favourite expressions was, "There's never smoke with- 
out a fire," though it was a metaphysical or celestial 
fire to which she was alluding. 

Mr. Primby had been a clerk in a shipping office in 
the West End of London, travelling backwards and 
forwards from Ealing where he had a small villa resi- 
dence with two rooms, a kitchen and a scullery down- 
stairs, and three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. 
He had been nearly fifty when the war broke out and 
so had escaped the call-up, and at sixty he had retired. 
He enjoyed a game of bowls with a local club, he had 
an allotment in which he grew all his own vegetables 
and which was a model of its kind, and he attended, 
somewhat irregularly, a nearby Methodist church. His 

75 



wife belonged to a bridge circle which met twice a week 
in the afternoon and enjoyed local gossip almost as 
much as the bridge, and she attended the Spiritualist 
church every Sunday, a weekly seance on Wednesdays 
and a Healing Circle on Fridays, except during August 
when the medium, a Mrs. Hume, recuperated her 
psychic powers at Ramsgate. It would seem that Mr. 
and Mrs. Primby were set in a not too unpleasant 
groove which would only end when it ran through the 
ornamental iron gates that led to the Ealing Crema- 
torium (a finale for which they had both expressed a 
preference) . 

And then they took a holiday in the west of Ireland. 
The ten days they spent in Connemara were exception- 
ally fine, and it is scarcely to be wondered at that they 
fell in love with everything they saw. Before they left 
for home they had begun negotiations to buy Daroch 
Lodge, a large, damp, rambling house on the outskirts 
of Bally dingan. They returned to England to sell their 
Ealing home, on which they had long ago paid off the 
mortgage, and to arrange for the transport of their 
furniture to Ireland. Within three months they had 
said good-bye to their friends and had embarked on a 
new life in Connemara. Mrs. Primby was reassured 
about the move when, at the last seance she attended 
before they left Ealing, her Aunt Millicent came 
through in her rather breathless way and informed her 
that she was about to cross the water and find all that 
she looked for. 

Sometimes, in the months that followed, Mrs. 
Primby had wondered whether Aunt Millicent's seven 
years on the other side had really done anything to 
sharpen her perceptions. She had not been noted for 
the accuracy of her judgements when alive, and far 

76 



from Daroch House providing all that Mrs. Primby 
looked for, it seemed, at times, to leave a good deal to 
be desired. There was one cosy little sitting-room 
which she and her husband kept for themselves, and 
called the office, but the fire smoked when the wind 
was in the south-west, and it seemed to Mrs. Primby 
that the wind hardly ever blew from any other quarter. 
The plumbing had been done by an amateur whose 
skill was scarcely equal to his enthusiasm, and was not 
at all satisfactory. It was impossible to have a hot bath 
because for some unaccountable reason the water in 
the hot tank always began to siphon back into the cold 
tank as soon as the tap over the bath was turned on. 
What was even worse, when there was a high tide, 
which seemed to happen every month, sea-water used 
to regurgitate through all the drains, and on one 
occasion flooded both the kitchen and the downstairs 
lavatory. Eventually a plumber had to be called in 
from Galway, and the floorboards had to be taken up, 
and trenches dug down to the sea, and new pipes laid 
which were very expensive. But what seemed worst of 
all to Mrs. Primby, especially during the long, dark, 
rainy days of late autumn and winter, was that there 
was almost no social life, certainly not of the kind for 
which she yearned. There was no bridge, and there 
were no tea parties. The few Protestant families who 
were relics of the Ascendancy kept strictly to their own 
narrow circle, talking to each other in their high, 
exaggeratedly English voices, when they met in the 
post office or one of the grocery stores, though the 
former Ascendancy did most of its shopping in Galway 
or even in Dublin; but wherever she came across them, 
they never seemed to be aware of her existence. The 
newer English residents who had settled in the few 

77 



sizeable houses around Ballydingan since the war, 
chiefly to avoid English income tax, made no advances. 
Their criteria were almost exclusively financial, and 
Mr. and Mrs. Primby clearly did not come into the 
upper income brackets, in spite of the amount of money 
they had spent on their drains. Mrs. Primby, however, 
had made one friend, an elderly lady named Miss 
Fisher, the daughter of a former R.M. who had retired 
in 1922 and soon afterwards died, leaving his daughter 
the small, comfortable house to which he had retired, 
and a small competence on which to run it. On her 
first visit to Daroch Lodge she had been moved to 
confide in Mrs. Primby that she possessed certain 
psychic powers, and Mrs. Primby had told her all about 
the Spiritualist church at Ealing, the Wednesday 
seances and the Friday Healing Circle. They had 
become firm friends. Now, when Mr. Primby was busy 
in the kitchen garden, waging an endless and losing 
warfare with the snails, the slugs and mildew, they had 
tea together and did a little furtive automatic writing. 
So far, nothing very much had come through from the 
Spirit World, though they never lost hope, and Mrs. 
Primby's Aunt Millicent had already made a brief 
appearance and left behind her a more than usually 
cryptic message. Indeed, it was the incomprehensi- 
bility of the message which had led Mrs. Primby to 
recognize it as undoubtedly deriving from her Aunt 
Millicent. 

When Mr. Thompson came back on the Friday 
evening after he had telephoned his London office and 
been up to the Conneelly's, he brought with him 
Murgatroyd of the Wire. Mr. Murgatroyd, though a 
considerable drinker even by the standards of E.G.4., 
preferred to stay in temperance hotels. He said it was 

78 



because when he woke up in the middle of the night he 
was able to go to sleep again as he knew it was no good 
getting up and prospecting for a drink. Mrs. Primby 
was pleased to give him accommodation because from 
October, when they had arrived, to Easter they had 
had no guests at all, and at Easter they had only had a 
middle-aged couple who grumbled all the time at the 
weather, over which the Primbys could exercise no 
form of control. Mr. Hogan and Mr. Thompson had 
been their first catch of the summer season. 

When Mrs. Primby had shown Mr. Murgatroyd his 
room she stood hesitantly in the doorway and said: 

"You wouldn't care to make up a little circle, I 
suppose?" 

Murgatroyd looked doubtfully at Thompson, who 
had come upstairs with him. He was wondering 
whether Egan's might not have been safer after all. 

There was a dotty glint in Mrs. Primby's eye. 

"Circle?" he queried. 

"My friend, Miss Fisher, has called. Her father used 
to be a judge out here. She has wonderful psychic 
powers. But, of course, if you are sceptical it wouldn't 
do at all. The etheric powers are inhibited instantly if 
we doubt them." 

Mr. Thompson was the first to respond. He was not 
an ace reporter for nothing, and had never turned 
down any experience that was remotely likely to 
provide him with copy. He slapped Murgatroyd on 
the back. 

"Why, of course we'll make a circle, Mrs. Primby. 
We might get in touch with this St. Dingan fellow." 

"That's an idea," said Murgatroyd, brightening up a 
little. 

"I don't really know whether saints are allowed to 

79 



come back," said Mrs. Primby. "They're rather dif- 
ferent. They may be too far advanced." 

"Of course they can come back," said Mr. Thomp- 
son. "Didn't this St. Brigid appear to the Gonneelly 
children only two nights ago?" 

"You might be right," said Mrs. Primby. "I hadn't 
thought of that, but we haven't had a saint through 
before, as far as I remember. But of course, there's 
more in all this than meets the eye." 

"When do we start?" 

"In a few minutes, if you would like to join us. I've 
just to get the table ready, and the paper. I think I'll 
ask Mr. Hogan as well. The influence is always 
stronger the more people there are. You see, those on 
the other side have to use our vibrations to get through." 

"Old Thompson here is vibrating like a Jew's harp," 
said Mr. Murgatroyd coarsely. "We shall be sure to 
get something." 

"I'll give you Jew's harp," said Mr. Thompson. 

When Mrs. Primby had gone, Murgatroyd said crossly: 

"Whatever made you do it? It isn't like you to waste 
good drinking time. I must say I don't much fancy being 
cooped up with two mad women and a planchette." 

"There may be a story in it," said Thompson. 

"Even if there is, the Wire wouldn't touch it," said 
Murgatroyd. "The boss has gone all religious, and 
spiritualism counts as a religion." 

"What about this St. Dingan story? You're running 
that." 

"That's different, it's Roman Catholic. Besides, we 
aren't guying it." 

"We may get something," said Thompson seriously. 
Like all hard-boiled people, he was sentimental and 
credulous at bottom, indeed far more credulous than 

80 



Fr. Rooney, though he would have indignantly refuted 
the idea if it had been suggested to him. "As Mrs. 
Primby said, there's more in some of these mediums 
than meets the eye." 

"You're dead right there," said Murgatroyd. 

When they went downstairs they found Mrs. Primby 
hovering about in the hall waiting for them. She took 
them into the office, and introduced them to Miss 
Fisher, a thin little old lady with grey hair and beady 
black eyes, who was sitting at a small table in the 
middle of the room. Mr. Hogan was also sitting at the 
table, looking rather sheepish. 

"With three big men helping, I'm sure we shall get 
something" said Miss Fisher brightly. "As I told Mrs. 
Primby, I feel full of power this evening." 

"Powers!" exclaimed Mr. Thompson, who was 
thinking of Gold Label. "Oh, I see." 

Miss Fisher turned to Mr. Murgatroyd, who had a 
rather soulful look. He was thinking of Egan's bar. 

"There are strong influences at work in Bally dingan," 
she said darkly. "Superstition has raised its head. Evil 
is all around us." 

"Let's get down to it," said Mr. Thompson prac- 
tically. "We shall have to go to the — the post office in 
half an hour." 

Mrs. Primby arranged them round the little rose- 
wood table. She sat Mr. Thompson on Miss Fisher's 
left, then Murgatroyd, then Hogan, and then herself on 
Miss Fisher's right. In her right hand Miss Fisher held 
a pencil over a sheet of paper, with a block of paper at 
the side. Mr. Thompson was told to clasp her left hand 
and the others linked up in the same way until the 
circle was completed by Mrs. Primby's putting her 
hand on Miss Fisher's knee. 

81 



"Don't we draw the curtains?" asked Mr. Thompson. 

"Oh, no," said Miss Fisher. "I do automatic writing, 
and you have to read it." 

They sat silently for some moments, and then Miss 
Fisher's eyes shut, and her head fell forward a little. 
Instantly the pencil began to move over the paper. 

Murgatroyd instinctively recoiled, moving his chair 
back as he did so. 

"Sh!" whispered Mrs. Primby. "You mustn't break 
the circle or you'll spoil the influence." 

The pencil had been describing a series of meaning- 
less scrawls. Suddenly it began to go more slowly, and 
Thompson saw letters forming. 

DING DONG 

he saw across the page. 

"Good God!" he exclaimed. "It's wonderful!" 
Mrs. Primby hushed him. 

DUNG 

Mrs. Primby coloured a little but said nothing. 

DING AN 

"It's St. Dingan," said Mr. Thompson. "We've got 
on to him." 

"Sh!" said Mrs. Primby. "We ask him questions. 
You start." 

"Are you St. Dingan?" asked Mr. Thompson. 

DING DONG BELL 

Miss Fisher's pencil wrote with incredible speed. 

82 



"Where are you?" asked Mr. Thompson. 

HHHHHHHH 

went the pencil until it finally ran off on to the polished 
top of the table. 

"Might be either place," said Murgatroyd, who 
could read it just as easily upside down. "Where are 
your bones?" 

MONDAY, TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY 

wrote the pencil, and came to the bottom of the page. 
Mrs. Primby deftly slipped a clean sheet of paper on 
top of the old one. 

"It's not very clear," said Mr. Thompson. "You ask 
him something," he said to Hogan, who was looking 
faintly disgusted with the whole proceedings. 

"What do you want?" Hogan asked. 

A GIRL, A GIRL I SAW, YES A GIRL 

the pencil wrote. 

"Dirty old man," said Thompson. "I don't believe 
it is St. Dingan." 

"Sh!" said Mrs. Primby. "He's trying to tell us some- 
thing about the girl who found the bone." 

"Oh, I get you," said Mr. Thompson. "We'll ask 
him again. What do you want?" 

WASTE NO WANT NOT 

wrote the pencil immediately, and then, as if pleased 
with this sally added 

HA HA HA. 
83 



"The fellow's dotty, whoever it is," said Murgatroyd. 
"Here, let me have another shot. Hey, you, what's all 
this about?" 

ABOUT— ROUT— SNOUT— the pencil trans- 
cribed rapidly, LOUT— BOUT— SHOUT. And 
then the pencil ran off the paper on to the table again. 
Very carefully Mrs. Primby guided it back. 

"I'm afraid there are bad influences at work," she 
said. "I think one of you must be a sceptic." 

"Are there going to be any more miracles?" asked 
Mr. Thompson. 

MONDA T— TUESDA Y— WEDNESD A Y 

wrote the pencil for the second time. 

"Well, that's pretty definite," said Mr. Thompson. 
"Are we going to find your bones?" 

IN TIME— SOMETIME— NO TIME, wrote 
the pencil. TIME PLEASE. 

"I know whose influence that is," said Mr. Thomp- 
son. "Try and put your mind on something else, 
Murgatroyd." 

The pencil was just doodling, but suddenly it began 
to write again. 

ONCE UPON A TIME A TIME TIME 
SHALL HAVE A STOP. 

At this point the door was flung open, and Mr. 
Primby put his head in. 

"My dear," he said, "there's an awful smell of burn- 
ing coming from the kitchen." He looked rather taken 
aback. "I'm sorry, my dear, I didn't know you were 
busy." 

84 



"It's probably the pudding boiled dry," said Mrs. 
Primby. "Just put the pan on one side, Edward." 

Miss Fisher raised her head and opened her eyes. 

"There are adverse forces all around us," she said. 
"I could feel them all the time beating black wings 
round our heads." Mr. Murgatroyd looked apprehen- 
sively behind him. "Did we get anything?" 

Mr. Thompson got to his feet, followed quickly by 
Murgatroyd and Hogan. 

"It was very interesting," he said. "Thank you, Miss 
Fisher. But now we must go and telephone." 

"You'll be back for dinner?" Mrs. Primby asked him 
anxiously. "It doesn't matter about the pudding. I'll 
open a tin of fruit." 

"We'll be back in about an hour," said Mr. Thomp- 
son. "Is that all right?" 

"I think I'll walk up to the village with you," said 
Hogan. "I could do with one, too." 



85 



12 



miss maconochie, the Connemara poetess, arrived back 
in Ballydingan by the C. I. E. bus just after half past 
seven in the evening. 

She was a thin, angular woman bordering on fifty, 
with her hair drawn tight down each side of her fore- 
head, and then plaited and rolled into a bun at the 
back. She always looked fearfully in earnest, mainly 
because she thought spectacles made her look old, and 
so she had to screw up her eyes in desperate attempts to 
focus whatever was in front of her. Her unemphatic 
chest was usually housed in curiously embroidered 
blouses which she fondly imagined had been made by 
Austrian or Bavarian peasants but which, in actual 
fact, had never been farther east than the Commercial 
Road, Stepney. And instead of a coat she normally 
wore a cloak which made her back view resemble that 
of a matador and her front that of a nun on the loose. 

Miss Maconochie had been born in London, on the 
northern slopes where Hoxton merges into Islington, 
but she had managed to forget this, and certainly none 
of her friends knew anything about it. Her father had 
been a Regimental Quartermaster, and when his 
regiment had moved from London to Fermoy, he had 
taken his wife and child with him. Now Miss Maconochie 

86 



let it be understood she had been born in Cork, 
and she herself had almost come to believe that it was 
so, and that the record of the fact had perished in the 
Troubles. She had even changed the spelling of her 
Christian name from Mary to Mairi, and her speech 
was now emphatically Irish, a combination of music- 
hall Irish and Abbey Theatre Kiltartan that never was 
in any of the four Provinces. "Begorrah!" she would 
exclaim, and imagine she was speaking the language 
of Brian Boroimbe, never realizing that she was the 
only person in Connemara, and probably in the whole 
of the twenty-six counties, who used the expression. 

She was, of course, a fervent Nationalist and a great 
opponent of Partition. Indeed, that was how she had 
established her reputation, for never an anniversary 
went by, whether it was 1798, 1803, the '48 or 1916, 
but some ballad of hers was to be found on the leader 
page of one of the Irish newspapers. It is an odd trait 
of the Irish that they are for ever looking backward, 
and care nothing for the future. It is the past that 
holds them in thrall, and they hark back to the 
Troubles as to a legendary Golden Age. Miss Macon- 
ochie quarried busily into the past, with the help of 
various popular histories and back numbers of the 
Wolf Tone Annual, and assiduously fashioned her metric 
tombstones, so that there was hardly a United Irishman, 
or a Fenian, or a Young Irelander whose memory was 
not enshrined in her verse. Two years before, she had 
received the accolade for her labours when Austin 
Clarke had referred to her poetry as monumental. 

Miss Maconochie did not go to church. Her father 
had belonged to the sect of the Plymouth Brethren, 
and had found opportunities for the public profession 
of this faith somewhat lacking in Ireland, where the 

87 



main Protestant denominations have enough to do to 
hold their own without encouraging splinter groups. 
She had long felt that Nationalism demanded her con- 
version to Catholicism, but her reception into the 
Church had been delayed. Whether the fault was on 
her side or on that of the Church it is impossible 
to say. Perhaps each awaited overtures from the 
other. 

On this Friday evening she arrived with her friend, 
Nuala Macken, whom she had known when living in 
Dublin before settling in Connemara. Miss Macken 
was a tall, raw-boned woman with no-nonsense written 
all over her. She wore a grey tweed suit with a collar 
and tie. Her hair was done in what appeared to be an 
unauthorized version of the crew-cut. The only reason 
why she did not wear trousers was that she considered 
they had become too effeminate. Oddly enough she 
was a wonderful needlewoman, and her delicate lace 
was known throughout Foxrock and Cabinteely, and 
even as far as Killiney. 

It might be thought that Miss Maconochie would be 
a little tired after her journey from Dublin, which had 
involved leaving Westland Row at 8.40 a.m., arriving 
in Galway at five minutes to one, spending three and a 
half hours in Galway, and then a further three hours 
in a C. I. E. bus. But anyone who thought so would 
have been wrong. Miss Maconochie had inherited her 
father's constitution, and she positively enjoyed the 
journey. She had arranged, on her return, for two of 
her friends to come in to supper and meet Miss Macken. 

The two friends arrived at the cottage within a few 
minutes of Miss Maconochie's getting back. She had 
just had time to see that the table was set, the salad 
made, and the soup left at the side of the range by the 

88 



invaluable Bella all ready to heat up, when their ring 
came at the door. 

"How are ye, how are ye?" she greeted them. 
"We're only just after having come from the great city. 
Come in and have a glass of poteen." Whatever might 
be said about Miss Maconochie, it had to be acknow- 
ledged she was a generous soul. She had long ago dis- 
covered that the best way to secure an audience was 
to offer them drinks, agreeing with the late Professor of 
Latin at Cambridge that "Malt does more than Milton 
can" especially when distilled. "This is my friend, 
Nuala Macken. I think you've met before. Nuala, this 
is Miss Hapgood and Mr. Prendergast." 

It is sometimes asserted that most of the world's 
oddities are collected in Taormina, or Capri, or 
Majorca, but as a matter of fact quite a number have 
settled in Ireland, many of them in Connemara. 
Neither Miss Hapgood nor Mr. Prendergast would 
have appeared out of place in Taormina, or Capri, or 
Majorca, and they did not appear at all singular in 
Connemara. Miss Hapgood, with the face of an 
amiable pug, was also a poetess, but her verses were so 
difficult, and the magazines which published her so 
obscure, that Miss Maconochie was unable to think of 
her as a rival, merely as a fellow practitioner. It was 
rumoured in literary circles in Dublin that Dr. Leavis 
had once had a nightmare after accidentally reading 
one of her poems. Mr. Prendergast was what, in the 
good old days, would have been called a remittance 
man. His family made him a fairly substantial allow- 
ance on the one condition that he did not set foot in 
England. 

Miss Maconochie's house, to use an Irishism, was 
built so that the front was at the back. There were 

89 



three bedrooms on the side that faced the road, and on 
the other a large sitting-room facing the garden, and a 
small kitchen. In the space between the kitchen and 
one of the bedrooms was the bathroom. The sitting 
room was divided roughly into two halves, the living- 
room, which was also the poetess's working room 
grouped round the fireplace and two of the french 
windows, and the dining-room, which consisted of an 
oak table, four chairs and a sideboard lighted by a 
third window. On a low table by the fireplace stood a 
tray of drinks, on which Mr. Prendergast's eye rested 
appreciatively. In the middle of the three french 
windows stood Miss Maconochie's writing desk, at 
which she composed all her verses, or at least all those 
which did not come to her in bed, and which she wrote 
down in a special notebook she kept at hand on her 
bedside table. Locked in the bottom drawer on the 
right was a rhyming dictionary and a copy of Roget's 
Thesaurus. It was an odd fact that Miss Maconochie 
never needed a rhyming dictionary in bed. 

"I thought you were marvellous last night," said 
Miss Hapgood. "Such thrilling verses." 

"Did ye think so?" said Miss Maconochie, preening 
herself a little. "I thought I didn't quite do justice to 
the last one, now." 

"Oh, but you did. It was beautiful," breathed Miss 
Hapgood. "Didn't you think so, Edward?" she 
appealed to Mr. Prendergast. 

"Battery run down," said Mr. Prendergast. "Meant 
to get it charged, but forgot." 

"You should get a mains set," said Miss Maconochie. 
"You're old-fashioned." 

"Not so much interference," said Mr. Prendergast. 
"Prefer batteries. Don't use it much anyhow." 

90 



"Perhaps you would read them to us again after 
supper," suggested Miss Hapgood. 

"I think Nuala here would object. She thinks poetry 
is namby pamby." 

"That's untrue, Mairi," said Miss Macken. "I have 
no talent for verse myself, but I can appreciate it in 
others. I think you have a very real gift." 

"So has Doris here," said Miss Maconochie. "She 
had a poem in the Blue Quarterly last month." 

"I should like to see it," said Miss Macken. "If I 
may. I don't promise to understand it." 

"Of course you won't understand it, Nuala," said 
Miss Maconochie. "Even I can't." 

Mr. Prendergast had begun to fidget a little during 
this exchange, but his eyes brightened as Miss 
Maconochie stooped to the drinks tray, and picked up 
the bottle of Robin Redbreast. 

"What'll it be now?" she asked. "I only have whisky 
and sherry." 

Miss Hapgood took sherry, the rest all had whisky. 

"And now, Doris," said Miss Maconochie, when 
they were all comfortably seated round the fire. 
"What's all this nonsense about St. Dingan that's been 
going on since I've been away?" 

"It was the Conneelly children, Mairi," said Miss 
Hapgood, as if this went a good way towards explaining 
everything. 

"Oh, the Conneelly children," said Miss Maconochie, 
giving an involuntary glance out of the window. "I 
wouldn't put anything past them." 

"They pretended to see a vision," said Miss Hapgood. 

Miss Maconochie remembered that her friend was 
English and a Protestant. An Irishwoman like herself 
could not allow a vision to be treated so cavalierly. At 

9i 



any moment Miss Hapgood might be going on to cast 
doubts on leprechauns, or to express disbelief in the 
little people. 

"Come, now," said Miss Maconochie judicially. 
"They seem to have found a bone which has worked 
two miracles." 

"Three," put in Mr. Prendergast, who had spent the 
late afternoon in Duffy's Bar, and heard all about 
Brendan Burke. "Dumb boy talking." 

"You mean Mrs. Burke's boy?" 

"Yes. Said several words. Now the bone's lost." 

"Lost!" exclaimed Miss Maconochie. 

"It seems the Conneelly's dog ran away with it," 
explained Miss Hapgood. "It's rather dreadful, isn't 
it, if it really was St. Dingan's bone?" 

Miss Macken gave a bellow of laughter, which con- 
siderably startled Mr. Prendergast. "I call that good," 
she roared. "The dog ran away with the bone!" 

"Nuala!" Miss Maconochie was shocked. "It's not 
really a laughing matter." 

"Sorry, Mairi." Miss Macken wiped her eyes on a 
large linen handkerchief. "But you must admit it's 
rather rich. The dog ran away with the bone!" And 
Miss Macken slapped her thigh with a large and cap- 
able-looking hand, and gave another bellow of 
laughter. 

"Place full of reporters," observed Mr. Prendergast. 

"Indeed." Miss Maconochie was reflecting. Up to 
now she had been the chief celebrity in Ballydingan. 
Poor Doris Hapgood hardly counted. The tourists 
would ask for her house, and look in at the gate, and 
even walk in and peer through the windows. Some- 
times when she was in a gracious mood she would come 
out and ask them if they would like to see her flower 

9 2 



garden. Now she would have to share all this with a 
miracle-working saint, and share might not be the right 
word. They might never get past the Protestant church- 
yard at all. She had spent several holidays in Italy, 
and knew what Catholic saints could get up to. Poetry 
was no match for Catholic thaumaturgy. Like Mr. 
Freeman, only for rather different reasons, she would 
have to uproot herself, and go to live somewhere else, 
somewhere like Letterfrack or Carna. 

"I wonder if they did see anything," she said. ''They 
may have heard a story at school from Miss Macardle, 
and then made it all up." 

"But what about old Mrs. Conneelly, and Poric 
Mannion?" asked Miss Hapgood. 

"That only requires faith," said Miss Maconochie, 
as if the power to remove mountains was something 
almost too commonplace to deserve mention. "It 
doesn't matter what you have faith in, it would work. 
I mean it needn't be a real bone of St. Dingan. Help 
yourself to the whisky, Edward." 

Mr. Prendergast needed no second prompting. 

"When did all this happen?" demanded Miss 
Macken. 

"They found the bone on the eve of Corpus Christi," 
said Miss Maconochie, who had read all the papers. 
"And the miracles occurred on Corpus Christi itself." 

"And where did they see the vision?" 

"In the churchyard, just across the boreen there." 
Miss Maconochie pointed in the direction of her 
kitchen. "So they say. We'll show you the place after 
we've had supper." 



93 



13 



when Thompson, Murgatroyd and Hogan arrived at 
Egan's Bar, they found Barry and Mrs. Shotter. The 
car, a very large Chrysler, hired in Dublin, was outside 
the door, the chauffeur at the wheel. Mrs. Shotter was 
still sitting in the kitchen chair at the side of the smoky 
turf fire, drinking her third Irish "on the rocks". 
Several young men had come in from the bog, and 
under the influence of whisky and porter which Mrs. 
Shotter and Barry were liberally dispensing, they were 
elaborating a plan for digging up the chancel of Holy 
Trinity and securing St. Dingan's bones. For some 
reason which Mrs. Shotter and Barry found difficult to 
fathom,the only night on which this could be attempted 
appeared to be Sunday night. 

"Tomorrow night is a dance in Clifden," explained 
one of the young men. 

"But does everyone have to go to the dance?" asked 
Barry. 

"All of us are going." 

"What about tonight? Nothing like striking while 
the iron is hot." 

But apparently too much preparation was required, 
and, even more inhibiting, it was the night Fr. Rooney 
heard confessions after Rosary at eight o'clock. 

94 



"Sunday it will have to be then," said Barry. 

"And Mr. Freeman won't be going into his church 
for another week after Sunday morning," another man 
pointed out. 

"That'll be fine," said Barry. 

A break-away group in one corner were wanting to 
sirfg Mrs. Shotter some of the old ballads. The mourn- 
ful strains of The Wild Colonial Boy began to fill the air, 
reminding Barry, by a curious juxtaposition of ideas, 
that he had to visit the dentist on his return to London. 

"Introduce us," said Thompson to Barry, indicating 
Mrs. Shotter. 

Introductions were effected, and Thompson intro- 
duced Hogan. 

"What are you plotting?" asked Thompson. 

"We're going to secure the bones of this St. Dingan," 
explained Mrs. Shotter. "On this very Sunday night." 

Barry had been hoping to secure a scoop, but realized 
it was impossible. 

"The boys are going to dig up the floor of the 
church," he said. "It's sort of paving stones, so if we're 
careful it can all go back afterwards so nothing will be 
noticed. I had a scout round this afternoon. Then we'll 
stage a really big miracle. Boy, oh boy." 

"I'm going to get the pain in my back cured first," 
said Mrs. Shotter. "That will be a big miracle even if 
it isn't spectacular at all." 

Mr. Thompson should have known better than en- 
courage a hypochondriac. He had been a journalist 
for twenty years. 

"You have a pain in your back?" he asked. 

"I'm just a martyr," said Mrs. Shotter complacently. 
"I used to have giddy spells, but I had a good physician 
in Milwaukee and he straightened that out. Before that 

95 



it was hay fever, but I had injections. Over seventy 
injections, and I was in the clinic for more than a 
month. Sixty dollars a day ^elusive." 

Mr. Thompson wanted to ask what it was exclusive 
of, but didn't get a chance. Barry, who had heard it all 
before, drew Murgatroyd a little deeper into the bar. 
In a choice between Mrs. Shotter's back and The Wild 
Colonial Boy, the latter won hands down. It could only 
have a limited number of verses. 

"And then I got analysed. I had a marvellous 
analyst. He did my horoscope, too, and told me I'm a 
very lucky woman, and I'm going to marry a second 
husband, and he'll be a professional man. He cleared 
me up fine, and I was just like a million dollars, until 
these pains started in my back. Nothing does them any 
good. I went to my physician, I went to the clinic, I 
even had a session with the analyst. I'm telling you, 
Mr. Thompson, my back resisted them all. I've had 
infra-red rays, and ultra-violet rays, and I've been 
massaged and dieted till I hardly know where I am. 
I'm a Daughter of the Revolution, Mr. Thompson, and 
I just had to come off the committee. My back was 
taking up all my time. I just couldn't tell you the 
things I've had done, and I'm just where I was. I even 
went to a very famous faith healer in Los Angeles. I 
was put on to him by a friend. He was just the very top 
of his profession in India before he came to Los Angeles. 
He can eat broken glass and lie on a board studded 
with nails, but he just couldn't cure my back. 'Mrs. 
Shotter,' he said, 'I have done all I can for that back 
and I have never admitted defeat before, but your back 
has defeated me.' I was really sorry for him. He only 
charged me a thousand dollars, and he did my horo- 
scope for nothing. It said I had a very unselfish nature, 

96 



and I should find real happiness where I didn't look 
for it." 

"A thousand dollars!" exclaimed Mr. Thompson, 
trying to change it into sterling in his head. 

"That's about three hundred and fifty of your 
pounds," said Mrs. Shotter. The saga of her back was 
not yet finished. She put out a hand to stay Mr. 
Thompson, who was trying to edge away. "I heard of a 
specialist in London who does nothing but backs. They 
tell me he's the very best man in Harley Street. Sir 
Hilton Robinson they call him, and he has attended the 
backs of all the royal family. Could he do a thing for 
me? He could not. 'Mrs. Shotter,' he said to me, 'your 
back is unique. I've never had a back through my 
hands like it. And if there's nothing I can do for your 
back, then there's nothing anybody else in the whole 
wide world can do for it.' What do you think of that, Mr. 
Thompson? He only charged me three hundred dollars." 

"Very reasonable," said Mr. Thompson. "But you 
should have gone to him under the National Health." 

"Well then, I decided to take a holiday in Ireland, 
and I just picked up the paper in the hotel down in 
Kerry yesterday and saw all this about St. Dingan's 
bone. And I knew in a minute it was meant. My horo- 
scope — the one I had done in Los Angeles — says 
'Seize your chances'. So we came straight up here. If 
my back was to be cured, it was this bone that would 
do it. And now," concluded Mrs. Shotter, "they've lost 
it. I have heard a dog has eaten it. I do think it was 
very, very careless," She brightened up a little. "These 
boys think they can find the whole darn skeleton." 

"He robbed the rich to help the poor, 
The wild Colonial boy." 

97 



came from one of the men, in the farther depths of the 
bar. 

"That would be wonderful," said Mr. Thompson. 
"I shall have to stay on until Tuesday to see it." 

" Where are you staying, Mr. Thompson?" 

"At a Guest House down the road." 

"Is there hot and cold water in the bedrooms?" 

"I think there is," said Mr. Thompson. Then he 
remembered bathing his forehead when he got up. 
"Yes, there is." 

"Do you think I could get a reservation?" 

"I expect so. They don't seem full up." 

"My chauffeur could stay here, and I could get a 
room at the Guest House " said Mrs. Shotter. "Is it 
clean?" 

"Oh, yes," said Mr. Thompson. "Clean as a new 
pin." 

"I have stayed in some Eyetalian guest houses that I 
just would not care to describe to you, Mr. Thompson." 
Mrs. Shotter lowered her voice. "I have been bitten 
all over." 

"There's nothing like that about Mrs. Primby's," 
said Mr. Thompson. "I assure you. What about 
another drink?" 

"No thank you, Mr. Thompson. I am not very 
accustomed to hard liquor, and this Irish is certainly 
stronger than this Mr. Barry here led me to anticipate. 
I guess I will get Henry to run me down to this Guest 
House and see if I can get accommodation and if I can 
I shall stay the week-end. What is it called?" 

"Daroch Lodge. It's only just down the road. I'd 
come with you," said Mr. Thompson, "but I have to 
do some telephoning. We shall see you at dinner, but 
tell Mrs. Primby not to wait for us." 

98 



"You off?" asked Barry. 

"She's going to stay at Daroch Lodge," said Thomp- 
son, as Mrs. Shotter weaved her way out of the door. 
"Where Murgatroyd and I are staying." 

Barry looked at him suspiciously. 

"Not trying an exclusive?" he asked. "She's my 
pigeon." 

"Be reasonable," said Thompson. "Would I twist a 
pal? She only wants a place with running water in the 
bedroom." 

"She's offered the boys a hundred dollars if they find 
St. Dingan's bones, and a thousand if her back's cured. 
What do you think of that?" 

"She might give old Egan here a juke box," said 
Thompson, as the strains of Galway Bay superseded 
those of The Wild Colonial Boy. "All these Irish tunes 
are just the same. They go up and down like an air raid 
siren." 

"If her back is cured I'll put it to her," said Barry. 
"What are you having?" 

It was just after eight o'clock when Thompson, 
Murgatroyd and Hogan got back to Daroch Lodge. 
Mrs. Primby was taking the soup into the dining-room. 
She had spent an enthralling half hour listening to Mrs. 
Shotter's medical history from the time when she first 
became conscious down to the abortive visit to Sir 
Robinson. She might have been back at a bridge party 
in Ealing. 

The soup was very peculiar. 

"I'm so sorry about the soup," said Mrs. Primby. 
"It was meant to be brown onion soup, but I quite 
forgot the onions, and so at the last minute I had to put 
some browning in it and call it gravy soup." 

The roast mutton was all right, if a little dried up, 

99 



and there was nothing wrong with the tinned fruit. 
Over the coffee Mr. Thompson remarked that he was 
going to walk up to Holy Trinity churchyard before he 
turned in. "Just to reconnoitre the ground," he said. 
"I don't suppose I shall see anything, but you never 
know." 

It is doubtful if he would ever have got past Egan's 
Bar if Mrs. Shotter had not said: 

"I can't sleep unless I take a little walk. I'll come 
with you if you don't mind." 

With a good grace, Mr. Thompson accepted the 
inevitable. 

"Delighted," he said. "But I shall just have to look 
in and see the boys on the way up." 

"It's getting dark, or we might find one of these 
bones in the churchyard," said Mrs. Shotter. 

"I expect they've gone over the place with a small- 
tooth comb," said Mr. Thompson. 

"Nobody's reported finding another bone," ob- 
served Murgatroyd. 

"I don't think all this fuss about bones is very nice," 
said Mrs. Primby. "I shouldn't like people playing 
with my bones when I'm dead. But then I'm going to 
be cremated." 

"They'll put your ashes into an egg-timer," said Mr. 
Thompson. Mrs. Primby was delighted at the sally. 
"Well, come along, Mrs. S. It's going to be dark soon." 

And Mr. Thompson and Mrs. Shotter set out for the 
churchyard. 



ioo 



14 



lord roundstone always enjoyed an evening with his 
old friend, Colonel Wotherspoon. They had been at the 
same private school together, and then Lord Roundstone 
had gone to Eton, and Colonel Wotherspoon to 
Wellington and eventually to Sandhurst, but they still 
met in the holidays. Lord Roundstone always called his 
friend "Porky", which had been his name at Morgrave 
House, due to his snub nose and habit of pursing up 
his lips when he was thinking, and Colonel Wotherspoon 
referred to Lord Roundstone as "Mouser", from a 
wholly apocryphal story that once, in an access of hunger 
not unusual at Morgrave House, he had caught and fried 
a mouse and eaten it for his tea. This was, of course, 
before Lord Roundstone had become a vegetarian. 

The Colonel lived in a moderate-sized house on the 
outskirts of Ballynafad which he had inherited from an 
uncle. It was screened from the road by a dank mass of 
evergreen, but the other side overlooked Lough 
Dhubach, on which the Colonel had the fishing, and, 
despite its name, was a pleasant- looking stretch of 
water. From mid-June to the end of the first week in 
October, every day of the week except Sunday, the 
Colonel would be found on one bank or other of the 
Dhubach, a salmon rod in his hand. 

101 



Over the sherry before dinner Colonel Wotherspoon 
had questioned his friend about St. Dingan. 

"Never heard of the fellow," he said. "Ton my soul, 
Mouser, you live in a very odd part of the world." 

"It's no odder than Ballynafad," said Lord Round- 
stone. "Why, Porky, look at those extraordinary people 
who had a caravan in your field last summer." 

"They were English," said the Colonel, with the 
contempt for the sceptered race which seems to take a 
grip of everyone who crosses St. George's Channel in a 
westerly direction. "Besides, I soon moved them on." 

"In any case," said Lord Roundstone, suddenly 
remembering that he belonged to the True Faith while 
old Porky was only one of Mr. Freeman's Seventeen, 
"I don't call it odd at all. It just happens that some 
children have seen a vision. There's nothing odd about 
a vision. Doesn't your religion allow you to see visions, 
Porky?" 

"I don't know about that," said the Colonel. "I 
don't think we encourage them. No guarantee where 
they come from," he added darkly. 

"The Catholic Church investigates them. It has 
tests. By their fruits ye shall know them, don't you 
know." 

"It's rather like believing in spooks, and table- 
turning, and all that sort of thing." 

"It isn't anything of the sort," said Lord Roundstone 
indignantly. "I don't know whether I believe in 
spooks or not, but this table-turning nonsense has never 
led to any good." 

"It has comforted a good number of people, Mouser, 
which is something, surely." 

"Some people will clutch at straws." 

"My father once saw a ghost," observed the Colonel. 

102 



"It shook him, I can tell you. He signed the pledge. 
But I'm glad to say it didn't last more than a year. He 
gradually got back to normal again. Help yourself to 
the sherry, Mouser." 

"I don't believe there's ever been a real ghost," said 
Lord Roundstone, pouring sherry into his glass. 

"It depends what you mean by real, as that chap on 
the wireless used to say. It wouldn't be a ghost if it 
were real. But my father saw Lady Jane Grey when he 
was Major at the Tower." 

' ' I remember staying with you in the Tower, ' ' said Lord 
Roundstone. "It was the last summer holidays before I 
went to Eton. I thought your father was a brigadier then." 

"So he was, but he was Major and Resident Gover- 
nor of the Tower. He saw Lady Jane Grey as plain as 
you can see me." 

"It was a damn good holiday, Porky," said Lord 
Roundstone reminiscently. "But I must say I never 
saw anything, for all the late nights we had." 

"You were always too materialistic, Mouser." 

"Oh, I say, Porky," remonstrated the ex-devotee of 
Madame Blavatsky and Gurdjieff. "I won't take that. 
Who used to store up pages of lines at Morgrave House 
and sell them for a penny a page?" 

"That's nothing to do with it," said the Colonel. 
"You can have a business sense and not be material- 
istic. Look at the Jews." 

"I don't know many," said Lord Roundstone. "But 
I should say that, as a race, they keep their eye on the 
main chance." 

"And at the same time they produced two of the 
world's greatest religions," said the Colonel triumph- 
antly. "Three, if you count Protestantism as quite 
distinct from Catholicism." 

103 



"What's the third?" asked Lord Roundstone sus- 
piciously. 

"Why their own," said the Colonel. "The Jewish." 

"I wouldn't call that one of the world's greatest 
religions." 

"Oh, but it is. It's lasted longer than any other in 
existence. At least four thousand years. And it's going 
just as strong as it ever did." 

"Old age isn't everything," Lord Roundstone said 
argumentatively. "We're getting older, Porky, but I 
don't know if it's doing us any good. My sciatica gets 
worse." 

"So does my blood pressure," said the Colonel. "Half 
a century has gone since we left Morgrave House. I 
suppose old Fatima is dead long ago." 

Old Fatima had been their name for the Matron. 

"She died before the last war," said Lord Round- 
stone. "I thought of sending William there, but the 
memory of the food deterred me." 

"There wasn't enough of it," said the Colonel. 
"That's why some people — " He broke off. Last time 
he had mentioned the fried mouse Lord Roundstone 
had got quite annoyed. 

"Even St. Dingan can't put the clock back," said 
Lord Roundstone. "That would be asking too much. 
But I'm going to see what he can do about my sciatica." 

They went in to dinner and were waited on by a 
manservant who had been the Colonel's batman in the 
1914 war. They talked of the approaching Test Match, 
of cricketing prospects generally, and similar topics 
until the manservant brought round the burgundy. 

"No thank you," said Lord Roundstone. "It's no 
good, Porky. My doctor says it's the worst thing 
possible for sciatica!" 

104 



"And I can only have one glass," said the Colonel 
gloomily. "And I've had to give up port altogether." 

They sat in sombre silence for a few moments, and 
then Lord Roundstone brightened up. 

"I put my faith in St. Dingan," he said. "If he can 
cure Poric Mannion, he can surely do something about 
my sciatica." 

"I wonder if he could do anything about my blood 
pressure." 

"I shouldn't be at all surprised." 

"But he might not want to do anything for a 
Protestant." 

"I don't think they have our divisions over the other 
side," said Lord Roundstone. "Besides, your church 
has been giving him shelter from the elements all these 
years, he's bound to be grateful." 

"It would be wonderful to be able to take a glass of 
port again without feeling it might be the last." 

"I'll tell you what, Porky," said Lord Roundstone. 
"I'll run you up after dinner and we'll take a walk 
round the churchyard. A blow will do us good, and 
you never know what may happen. There's some odd 
goings on in the village at the moment." 

"I don't for one moment expect we shall see any- 
thing," said the Colonel. 

"You never know, Porky," said Lord Roundstone. 
"You never know." 



105 



75 



in the meanwhile Belinda and Patricia and a reluctant 
William had finally decided to hold a dress rehearsal 
that night, to take place soon after ten o'clock, by 
which time the conditions should be favourable. It was 
hoped that the Conneelly children would be back home 
having their supper, and William was able to inform 
them that Lord Roundstone was dining with his friend 
at Ballynafad, which was just as well, as the proceed- 
ings involved the use of his tape-recorder. 

"You'd better have supper here," said William. 

"Why not come to the rectory?" asked Belinda. 

"No," said William. "Your father would be sure to 
smell a rat and not let us do it. He might think it was 
blasphemous, or something of that sort." 

"Sacrilegious," Patricia corrected him. "I wonder 
if it is," she added. 

"Not if it's in a good cause, surely," urged Belinda. 

"You're saying the end justifies the means," said 
Patricia firmly. "Which is what they always hold 
against the Jesuits. It would be best not to think about 
it." 

They were in the playroom at Lord Roundstone's ex- 
ploring the contents of a large black trunk with a curved 
top. There was first a tray on which were layers and layers 

1 06 



of Christmas decorations, and then a large Union Jack. 

"Uncle flew that over the house when the Ambas- 
sador stayed here," said William. "I don't think the 
village liked it at all." 

"There are almost more natives of Bally dingan in 
England than there are left in Bally dingan itself," 
observed Patricia. "I heard Father say so only the 
other day." 

"What do you expect,when they've put the price of 
drinks and petrol up?" asked William. "There's no 
point in putting up with the weather if it's just as dear 
living here as in England." 

They lifted out the tray and revealed a vast assort- 
ment of odds and ends. First there was a rather bat- 
tered top hat, a brown bowler and two ostrich feathers. 
Then there followed a number of dresses, a Father 
Christmas robe, and a roll of hessian. 

"That's just the stuff for your cassock, or whatever 
they call the thing monks wear," said Patricia. "You 
drape it round you and tie it with a clothes line." 

"We can tack it up for you," said Belinda kindly. 
"It shouldn't be difficult. Oh, here's the beard." 

It was an enormous red, bushy beard on wires that 
slipped over the ears. William put it on and went over 
to the glass above the fireplace. 

"Thank goodness it'll be nearly dark," he said. 
"Anybody could tell it was false in the daylight." 

"There won't be anybody near you," said Belinda. 
"At a distance it's just perfect." 

"We shall have to make a sort of cowl out of the 
hessian," said Patricia. "Your hair won't do at all." 

"You'd look much better as St. Brigid," William 
observed to Belinda. "Look at that lovely blue dress." 
He held up an Edwardian tea gown in blue silk. 

107 



"We've argued all that before," said Belinda firmly. 
"It's far better for you to be St. Dingan. You'll look 
marvellous." 

"I shall indeed!" 

"Now don't be a spoil-sport," said Patricia. "We'll 
take these things down with us and do some sewing 
while you make the record." 

Just after half past nine they carried the tape- 
recorder and a suitcase containing all the rest of the 
properties out to William's car, and set off for the 
village. They had decided to leave the car in the en- 
trance of Miss Maconochie's,as she was, so they fondly 
imagined, safely away in Dublin, and the habits of 
Bella Naughton were well known not to include any 
form of nocturnal supervision. That Miss Maconochie 
might have returned on the Friday evening bus never 
entered their calculations. 

The main door of the church was secured by a stout 
chain and padlock, but everyone in the village knew 
that the padlock was only a cod. It had been broken, or 
the rust had eaten away the works, before Mr. Freeman 
became rector. However, a padlock, if not laid down 
by Canon, is strictly enjoined by the Church of Ireland 
authorities, perhaps as a substitute for the Cross, that 
emblem of the Christian Faith which the Canons un- 
accountably prohibit, and the chain and padlock re- 
mained. The main door was on the north side, and the 
vestry opposite on the south. The vestry had a small 
door opening on the churchyard, but this was fastened 
with a Yale lock of which Mr. Freeman alone had a key. 
This was of no consequence as it could be opened from 
the inside. 

By means of an adaptor the tape-recorder was 
plugged into the vestry light socket. The reason for 

1 08 



using this instrument was that it had enabled William 
to record several versions of St. Dingan's message until 
he got one that satisfied him, and it did not sound at 
all like his natural voice. He had also been afraid that 
in the stress of the moment he might dry up from stage 
fright and forget his lines, short as they were. 

It was a cloudy evening and quite dark in the vestry, 
though twilight lingered in the churchyard. At zero 
hour, which was ten o'clock, William softly opened the 
vestry door. He was dressed in a sort of monk's robe 
which Patricia and Belinda had tacked together from 
the roll of hessian, and had flour on his face, though 
not much of it could be seen because of the cowl and the 
beard. 

"You look absolutely wizard," whispered Belinda, 
who was to watch the proceedings from behind the wall 
of the rectory garden. Patricia had to stand on the 
vestry window-sill and shine a torch down from the 
diamond-shaped pane at the top, which swung open in 
the middle. The torch had a roll of black paper pro- 
jecting beyond the glass so as to hide the source of the 
light as much as possible. It was only a dress rehearsal, 
because as far as they had been able to observe, the 
Conneelly children were not in the dingle, but every- 
thing was to be done exactly as they meant to do it on 
the Sunday night. 

"I'll be off," said Belinda. "Give me three minutes 
to get set." And she went across to the main door, sped 
lightly over the grass, and reached the rectory wall 
which she quickly scrambled over. She had been aware 
of voices at the entrance to the churchyard, and in the 
distance she heard a car approaching. At the same 
moment she also heard voices in the boreen which 
separated the churchyard from Miss Maconochie's 

109 



garden. "Oh, dear," she said to herself, "the place is 
simply alive." However, it was too late to warn William, 
so she just remained where she was and had a grand- 
stand view. 

It was not only growing dark, but a mist had come 
down, and she could only just distinguish two dim 
figures walking on the grass near the wall of the dingle 
at right angles with the wall behind which she was 
standing. Then she heard a woman's voice with a 
marked American accent. 

"I'll say, Mr. Thompson, this place has an authentic 
feeling about it. I can feel whether places are authentic 
or not, and this place is surely authentic." 

At this moment William stepped out from the vestry 
door, and Lord Roundstone and Colonel Wotherspoon 
came in by the churchyard gate. William stood in 
front of the vestry window, a floured arm emerging 
from the voluminous sleeve of his robe and pointing 
back towards the church, while a ghostly light played 
round his cowled head and luxuriant beard. From what 
appeared to be the bowels of the earth a deep, booming 
voice chanted: 

Leave my bones 
Beneath these stones. 
For cursed be he 
That raiseth me. 

Whether Mrs. Shotter could feel that a place was 
authentic or not, she was totally unprepared for an 
apparition of St. Dingan. She gave a loud screech, 
and began to run back towards the churchyard gate. 
Unfortunately, there was one of those slab-like tomb- 
stones in her way which seem to have been designed 
in Victorian times to make sure that a husband or wife 

no 



should not be haunted by the shade of a deceased 
spouse, at least if sheer weight of granite could prevent 
it. Mrs. Shotter tripped, uttered another and even 
more fearful cry, and fell headlong. 

Lord Roundstone and Colonel Wotherspoon might 
have proceeded to investigate an apparition of St. 
Dingan. But an apparition of St. Dingan coupled with 
what appeared to be a secondary manifestation of all 
the devils out of hell was a little too much. They turned 
and made their way at a gentlemanly trot back to the 
car. 

"Turn oflthe light," William hissed up to the vestry 
window. Patricia did as she was told, but even as she 
did so a gust of wind blew through the church and 
banged the vestry door. William was shut out, being 
unable to open it from the outside. Deciding that the 
best thing to do was to make for the car, he ran round 
the west end of the church and crossed the grass in 
order to gain the boreen. As he did so, Miss Macono- 
chie's head appeared above the top of the wall. 

For one brief moment Cork was forgotten, and all 
the painfully acquired Irishisms of nearly fifty years 
thrown to the winds. 

"Crikey!" exclaimed Miss Maconochie, and dropped 
back into the boreen. 



in 



16 



Although it was after ten o'clock, Lord Roundstone 
insisted on the Colonel's accompanying him on a visit 
to Fr. Rooney. Not even the smallest children go to 
bed as early as ten o'clock in Ireland, so there was little 
likelihood of their finding no one at the presbytery to 
welcome them. 

Fr. Rooney came to the door himself, for his house- 
keeper had gone home after clearing away his supper 
things. He was surprised to see Lord Roundstone, and 
even more surprised to see Colonel Wotherspoon,whom 
he only knew by sight. 

"Come in," he said. "You're a rare class of night birds, 
surely. I hope nothing is wrong." 

"Nothing, Father," said Lord Roundstone. "But 
we have just seen St. Dingan in the Protestant church- 
yard, and we thought it only right to come and tell 
you. I persuaded my friend to come with me, as he 
was a witness of the occurrence." 

"St. Dingan," said Fr. Rooney. "Sit down, Lord 
Roundstone. We haven't met before I think, Colonel." 
They shook hands as Lord Roundstone somewhat 
impatiently performed the introduction. He was 
wanting to get on with his story. 

"I was dining with the Colonel here, and we decided 

112 



to take a run up as far as Holy Trinity churchyard," 
said Lord Roundstone. "I may tell you I was seriously 
thinking of trying this bone on my sciatica, and my 
friend was wondering whether anything might be 
done about his blood pressure." 

The Colonel was listening to this with rather a hang- 
dog look, as if he thought Fr. Rooney might class him 
as a victim of superstition. 

"It isn't magic, you know," said Fr. Rooney gently. 
"It must work in the context of the Faith." 

"Of course, of course," said Lord Roundstone, who 
imagined he was referring to the Colonel's Protestant- 
ism. "But St. Dingan's bones have been given house 
room by the Protestants for so long we thought he might 
be prepared to stretch a point." 

"Oh, you misunderstand me," said Fr. Rooney. 
"I didn't mean to suggest that the Colonel's religious 
beliefs were any bar. Only that miracles must be 
approached with a certain amount of humility and 
reverence." 

"Of course," said Lord Roundstone again. "But 
at any rate, all we did was go up to the churchyard 
and walk up the path. We were taking the dingle side 
because that is where the children are reported to have 
seen their vision. And we had only just got abreast the 
east end of the church when there was a sort of un- 
earthly glow, and a figure rose up out of the ground. 
Much taller than life size, wouldn't you say, Porky?" 

"Enormous chap," agreed the Colonel. "About 
twice as tall as I am. Dressed like a monk, with a halo 
glowing round his head. I can tell you it was an amaz- 
ing sight." 

"He had a great red beard and glaring eyes," put 
in Lord Roundstone. 

"3 



"And an extraordinarily deep voice." 

"That's right. A most amazingly deep and powerful 
voice, that seemed tocomeoutof the bowels of the earth." 

"Quite unlike anything human." 

"I can't quite recollect his exact words, but it was a 
warning not to disturb his bones. Did you hear what 
he said, Porky?" 

"Most extraordinary," said the Colonel. "Something 
about a curse on those who meddled with his grave. 
But I didn't catch it all because of the shrieking." 

"Shrieking?" queried Fr. Rooney. 

"There was a whole covey of devils after him," said 
Lord Roundstone. "I tell you, Father, it was an alarm- 
ing experience. They were all trying to prevent him 
speaking, or to drown what he was saying. You've 
never heard anything like it in your life. And then he 
just disappeared." 

"The rummest thing I've ever seen," added the 
Colonel. "I was in the retreat from Mons, but I never 
saw the angels. I was asleep at the time in a dugout. 
Wonderful sight, I believe. I was always annoyed 
they didn't wake me up. But this vision, 'pon my soul, 
I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my 
own eyes." 

"You don't think," suggested Fr. Rooney cautiously, 
"that there could be any natural explanation?" 

"The shrieking simply wasn't an earthly noise at all," 
said Lord Roundstone. "I'm not superstitious, and I 
think I can claim to be as level-headed as the next 
man, but I should say that what we heard was the 
devils out of hell." 

"We're both men of the world," said the Colonel. 

"And we had all our wits about us," Lord Roundstone 
added. 

114 



"It isn't as if we'd had anything to drink at dinner," 
said the Colonel. "I had one glass of burgundy, and 
Roundstone had one glass of port." 

"We're acting on medical advice, more's the pity. 
I give you my word, Father, we were both as sober as 
judges. It all happened less than half an hour ago." 

"Can I offer you any refreshment?" asked Fr. 
Rooney. 

"No thank you, Father. I must run the Colonel 
home. But we thought you ought to know about this 
vision. I don't think there's any doubt whatever about 
its authenticity. As I say, we had all our wits about us, 
and we're not children." 

And yet, that was just what so many men of the 
world are, Fr. Rooney reflected. He was far more 
prepared to accept as genuine a vision seen by the 
Conneelly children than one vouched for by Lord 
Roundstone and Colonel Wotherspoon. 

"A Commission is sitting in the morning," he said, 
"to question Brigid and Bernadette Conneelly about the 
apparition they say they saw on Thursday evening. I 
wonder if you would tell them of your experience, Lord 
Roundstone." 

"Certainly, Father." 

"You say this apparition gave a message?" 

"It was something like, 'Don't disturb my bones or 
it will be the worse for you', only it was in rhyme. 
Wouldn't you say it was in rhyme, Colonel?" 

"I haven't much ear for poetry," said Colonel 
Wotherspoon, "but it sounded like poetry to me." 

"Poetry!" said Fr. Rooney sharply. To his know- 
ledge, derived not only from the breviary but from 
quite considerable reading, the saints did not make a 
habit of speaking in verse. It was what had made him 

115 



view with suspicion the apparition vouchsafed to the 
Conneelly children, in spite of the miracles worked by 
the bone. He suspected the child, Brigid, was liberally 
endowed with the Irish gift of imagination. And 
plainly this was not the case with Lord Roundstone. 

"It reminded me of something," said Lord Round- 
stone, rummaging in his mind through the flotsam and 
jetsam of a classical education. His face lit up. "I 
know what it was. Those lines on Shakespeare's tomb 
at Stratford. I can't quite remember how they go, but 
it's something about not digging the fellow up." 

Fr. Rooney had been a subscriber to John 0' London's 
Weekly until the cold-blooded murder of that unfor- 
tunate periodical, and he knew all about Shakespeare's 
tomb at Stratford. 

"You think St. Dingan was taking a leaf out of 
Shakespeare's book?" he said. "It may be, of course." 
Lord Roundstone gave him a quick glance. Even he 
was not entirely impervious to the feeling of scep- 
ticism in the air. "We shall have to see what the 
Commission says." 

"I was given to understand there was some idea of 
digging up the remains of St. Dingan," said Lord 
Roundstone. 

"I hope not, surely," said Fr. Rooney. "But I hear 
there has been some talk of it in the village." 

"William was saying something about it at lunch- 
time. Belinda Freeman was at lunch, and she said 
her father had quite decided to leave Ballydingan if 
any such attempt were made. Apparently Mr. Free- 
man had expressed grave disquiet at the prospect and 
said Ballydingan would simply become another 
Blackpool." 

"Indeed!" There was a grim note in Fr. Rooney's 

116 



voice. "I have never been to Blackpool, and I am sure 
many people find it a very enjoyable place for a holi- 
day, but I should not like to see Ballydingan go that 
way." 

The Colonel shuddered. 

"Nor would I," he agreed. "The first thing they 
would do would be to foul the rivers. And imagine all 
the rubbish and the broken bottles. It doesn't bear 
thinking about." 

"People are bound to hear about this bone," put in 
Lord Roundstone, "and come here to see if it will heal 
them." 

"The bone has been lost," said Fr. Rooney. "You 
hadn't heard, then?" 

"Lost!" exclaimed Lord Roundstone. "How could 
it be lost?" 

"It looks very much as if the Conneelly dog has 
eaten it." 

"Good heavens!" said the Colonel. "What a dread- 
ful thing." 

"I'm not at all sure it wasn't a happy solution of all 
our problems. Or nearly all of them," said Fr. Rooney. 
"But now, as you say, there seems to be a movement 
in the village to dig up the remains of St. Dingan, and 
I'm not happy about that at all. I think it is being 
encouraged by these journalistic fellows." 

"I — I'd like to take a horsewhip to them," said the 
Colonel. 

Fr. Rooney smiled. 

"I'm afraid it wouldn't do any good," he said. 
"You'd be given a column all to yourself, and probably 
a photograph you wouldn't like at all. I think I will 
see what a sermon will do on Sunday." 

"That might help, Father," said Lord Roundstone. 

117 



Fr. Rooney smiled again. There had been a rather 
doubtful note in Lord Roundstone's voice. In his 
opinion people liked to listen to a powerful sermon, but 
they rarely translated its precepts into action. 

When Lord Roundstone and the Colonel had gone, 
Fr. Rooney went back to his sitting-room and sat 
thoughtfully looking into the fire. He was wondering 
whether to take a walk up to the barracks to make 
an inquiry of Sergeant Donovan, but finally he decided 
against it. It could wait until the morning. 



118 



17 



Mrs.Shotter had sprained her ankle, but she limped 
quite happily, on Mr. Thompson's arm, down to 
Egan's Hotel. 

"What do you know!" she cried. "I've sprained my 
ankle, but the pain has gone from my back." 

"Wonderful," said Mr. Thompson. 

"I never thought to see anything like it. As soon as I 
get back to Milwaukee I'm going to become a Catholic. 
The vision was meant, Mr. Thompson." 

"Sensational," said Mr. Thompson. "I must leave 
you here for a few minutes. I'm just going to telephone 
from the barracks." 

Before Mr. Thompson had got through to London, 
by courtesy of the sergeant and the help of a pound 
note, there was a crowd of reporters, who had heard 
Mrs. Shotter's story, banging on the door of the 
barracks. 

"Whatever they offer you, I'll double it if you keep 
them out," hissed Mr. Thompson. 

Sergeant Donovan had bolted the door, and he 
informed the reporters from the window that he could 
not allow them to use the telephone. 

"Give you a pound for the use of the 'phone," came 
Barry's voice. 

"9 



"Two," whispered Thompson. 

"Two, Inspector," came the voice of Murgatroyd. 

Thompson raised the ante to four. 

"Where is there a 'phone that works?" asked 
another voice. 

"You can telephone from Clifden," the Sergeant 
told them. 

With raucous cries the reporters stampeded back 
down the street, and a minute later there came from 
down the hill the sound of starters and revving engines 
and the clashing of gears. 

Mr. Thompson had just got through to London, and 
was telling one of the sub-editors of the Excess News 
Agency exactly what he had seen. 

"I was walking in the churchyard with this American 
dame," he said. "Aw, hell, she's fifty if she's a day. She 
wanted me to show her where this bone had been 
found, and she's news, I tell you. She's the one I told 
you earlier had offered a thousand dollars if they dig 
up the bones of this St. Dingan. Well, we were walking 
in the churchyard, and suddenly this St. Dingan rises 
up out of the ground and towers away above us. No, 
I'm as sober as you are. I haven't had more than a 
dozen whiskies all night. Hell, Bottomley, have you 
ever known me get tight on a job? Oh, that was a 
different matter. Are you listening? This is absolutely 
sensational. Mrs. Shotter, this American dame, had a 
bad back. She came over all the way from America 
just to see Sir Hilton Robinson. You know, that 
fearfully expensive quack in Harley Street. Well, this 
vision has cured her. He just waved his hand in the 
air, and her back's as right as rain. She sprained her 
ankle falling over a tombstone, but it's cured her 
back. She's going to give the church here a thousand 

120 



dollars. I'm telling you it's front page. It's a wonderful 
story. It's got everything. There'll be people coming 
here from all over Europe. It'll be a second Lourdes. 
In fact,Lourdes won't be in it. I heard that dumb kid 
speak myself. I wouldn't like to repeat what he said 
over the 'phone, but there's no doubt he said it. I can 
assure you his mother isn't a ventriloquist." 

Back in Egan's Bar, sitting on the kitchen chair which 
Mr. Egan had again obligingly produced, by the smoky 
turf fire, and waving a glass of "Irish on the rocks", 
Mrs. Shotter was telling her story for the third time. 

"I've been cured," she informed the bar. "I said 
I'd give a thousand dollars if I was cured, and that was 
a vow, a real, solemn vow. So now I must give that 
thousand dollars to the church." 

The reporters had all gone, but Mr. Hogan was still 
there. 

"Which church?" he asked. 

"Why, the church where this happened," said Mrs. 
Shotter. 

"That's Mr. Freeman's church," said Mr. Egan. 

"But it's only an accident that St. Dingan happens 
to be buried there," said Mr. Hogan argumentatively. 
"Don't you agree with me?" he asked Mr. Thompson, 
who had just come back from telephoning. 

"About what, old man?" 

"Mrs. Shotter says she's going to give a thousand 
dollars to the Protestant church. But St. Dingan really 
belongs to the Catholics." 

"I should give Hve hundred dollars to each of them," 
said Mr. Thompson, a second Solomon. 

"That's just what I'll do," said Mrs. Shotter. "I 
suppose they'll take travellers' cheques? It's a very 
remarkable occurrence. I pick up the paper and see 

121 



this piece about St. Dingan's bone, and how it cures 
an old lady, and a man with a withered arm, and I 
know instantly it's meant. So I come here, and my back, 
which has resisted all treatment from the most famous 
specialists in the world, is cured instantly. It's a very, 
very remarkable occurrence." 

"A thousand dollars would be better," said Mr. 
Thompson, who had been thinking. "To one church, 
I mean." 

"And what exactly do you mean, Mr. Thompson?" 

"A thousand dollars in one lump makes a better 
story." 

"It will have to be divided, Mr. Thompson. There 
is no way of deciding which church can really lay 
claim to St. Dingan." 

"Forget it," said Mr. Thompson. "The story is 
you've given a thousand dollars as a thankoffering." 
He rubbed his hands together. "Boy, oh boy! We shall 
have all the world here next week." 

"What about the job on Sunday night?" asked a 
voice from the depths of the bar. 

"I think that's off," said Mr. Thompson. "The old 
boy pronounced a fearful curse on anyone who tried to 
dig him up. He might have known we were after his 
bones. 'Leave me be', he said, 'or it'll be the worse 
for you'. And he sounded as if he meant it." 

"I just couldn't make out one word of what he said," 
Mrs. Shotter remarked. "But he sounded very angry. 
He can't have been angry with us, or he wouldn't have 
healed my back, but I'll say he was angry at 
something." 

"If you don't dig his skeleton up, how is anyone else 
going to get healed?" asked Mr. Hogan. 

"That is certainly a problem," said Mr. Thompson. 

122 



He brightened suddenly. "We must call in a water- 
diviner, and get him to locate the place where these 
bones are. Boy, what a story!" 

"And what good would that do?" 

"Well, then, anyone who wanted to be cured of 
anything would have to lie on the ground over where 
the bones were. It would probably be just as good as 
the bones themselves. After all, it's faith that does it." 

"I don't think my back would have been cured if I 
hadn't seen this St. Dingan with my own eyes," put 
in Mrs. Shotter. "That was a very, very remarkable 
event. I would go so far as to say it was almost unique." 

"You're right there," said Mr. Thompson. "Bot- 
tomley, one of our fellows in London, was so suspicious 
of the whole thing he practically accused me of drink- 
ing. I told him straight, I never drink when I'm on a 
story. The same again, landlord. Not until I've got 
all the facts." 

"Then this digging is off?" persisted the voice from 
the back of the bar. 

"Please yourself," said Mr. Thompson. "But this St. 
Dingan fellow said as clear as could be he'd see anyone 
in hell who laid a finger on him." 

The door opened, and in came Miss Maconochie. 
She was limping a little, and had sticking plaster on the 
back of her right hand. She was also wearing a strained 
expression, but this was largely due to the fact that she 
was without her glasses. She never patronized Duffy's, 
as it was generally referred to as the English bar. 

"I've run out of the whisky," she said to Mr. Egan. 
"It's a great shock we're all after having tonight. I was 
taking some friends to see the churchyard, and St. 
Dingan appeared in a sort of cloud." She held up her 
hand. "I fell off the wall." 

123 



Mrs. S hotter looked a little put out at having to share 
the honours with another woman, but Mr. Thompson 
was quick to welcome the testimony of another witness. 

"Who is this lady?" he asked Mr. Egan. 

"This is Miss Maconochie, our famous poet." 

"Pleased to meet you," said Mr. Thompson. "I'm 
Thompson of the Tress. I came down for a holiday, but 
I've been covering this St. Dingan story. Now, will you 
tell me exactly what happened, Miss Maconochie?" 

Miss Maconochie was nothing loath to oblige. 

"I have my friend with me from Dublin," she said. 
"A Miss Macken, and two people came in to supper to 
meet her, Miss Hapgood, who also writes poetry, and a 
Mr. Prendergast. They're both English, but good 
souls. We had supper, and were talking, and the sub- 
ject came up of the extraordinary things that seem to 
have been happening these last few days, and before it 
got quite dark I said I would show them the church- 
yard where the Conneelly children say they found the 
bone. So we went out of the back door, and through 
the side gate of my garden into the boreen, which is 
sunk below the level of the garden and the churchyard. 
We stood in the boreen for a moment to get used to the 
twilight, and then the most extraordinary voice boomed 
out, almost as if it were coming out of the ground." 
Miss Maconochie looked suddenly perplexed. "It 
should have been coming from the sky, surely?" 

"Can you remember what it said?" 

"Oh, yes. It was in verse. I remember it clearly, 
being a writer of verse myself. It was 

' Leave me in peace 
Beneath these stones: 
I curse the man 
That moves my bones.' 
124 



I have a memory for poetry, and the circumstances were 
so extraordinary, it was instantly engraved on my mind." 

"That's wonderful," said Mr. Thompson, who was 
scribbling hieroglyphics in his notebook. "And then 
what happened?" 

"Well, I tried to climb the churchyard wall, and I 
had got my head over when St. Dingan appeared just 
in front of me. I knew instantly it was St. Dingan. 
There was no mistaking him. 'Begorrah!' I said, and 
then the stone gave way I was holding on to, and I fell 
back into the boreem I scraped my hand on the wall, 
and wrenched my leg." 

"You may be interested to hear that I also saw him," 
said Mrs. Shotter, who had been waiting impatiently 
to get a word in edgeways. "He came and cured my 
back. In fact, he must have just been returning when 
you caught a glimpse of him. I have suffered from my 
back for more years than I can tell you, Miss Mulachy, 
and I came all the way here for St. Dingan to work a 
miracle on my back, and that is why he appeared to- 
night. My back, Miss Mulachy, is cured." 

"Maconochie," the poetess corrected her. "Mairi 
Maconochie is the name, now." 

"Pardon me, Miss Maconochie. I started with my 
back in Milwaukee more than ten years ago, and I've 
been to the greatest specialists in the East and West — " 

"Excuse me," interrupted Mr. Thompson. He had 
no wish to hear again the saga of Mrs. Shotter's back. 
"I must go and do some more telephoning. I can quote 
you as having seen this St. Dingan?" 

"Certainly," said Miss Maconochie. 

"Are your poems well known?" 

Miss Maconochie bridled a little, and looked coy at 
the same time. 

125 



"I make my living by writing poetry," she said. 

"No offence, no offence," said Mr. Thompson. "I 
just want to get the record straight. If you get money 
for the stuff, it must be all right. I'm afraid it's one of 
the few things I don't know anything about. I know a 
few limericks, but that's about all, and they're not the 
sort I'd care to recite in mixed company. I suppose 
you've never written any limericks?" 

"I have not," said Miss Maconochie. 

"Ah, well, chackurn ah song goot" said Mr. Thompson. 
He turned to Mrs. Shotter, and patted her on the 
shoulder. "Mr. Hogan here will see you back to Mrs. 
Primby's." 

"Thank you," said Mrs. Shotter. As Mr. Thompson 
went out of the door she put out a hand and took hold 
of Miss Maconochie's arm. "It began with hay fever," 
she said. "I went into the Milwaukee Clinic and had 
seventy injections. ..." 



126 



18 



in the morning, before he went to Mass, Fr. Rooney 
walked up the hill to the barracks. 

"Were you out at all around ten o'clock last night?" 
he asked the Sergeant. 

Sergeant Donovan admitted that he had come in 
just about that time. 

"You didn't see anything unusual in the churchyard 
across there?" 

"I did not, Father. I saw one of the reporters going 
up there with that American lady who is staying at 
Mrs. Primby's, and after I got in the house I saw his lord- 
ship's car come up the hill and stop at the church gate." 

"There was nobody else about?" 

"Mr. William's old jalopy was backed into Miss 
Maconochie's gateway." 

"It was, was it now. The spalpeen! I should like to 
use your telephone, Sergeant." 

"Certainly, Father." 

Fr. Rooney's call was a brief one. He asked Miss 
Hegarty to put him through to Lord Roundstone, and 
when that gentleman came on the wire, he said: 

"Fr. Rooney here. Good morning. I don't think we 
shall need to trouble you this morning. There won't be 
time to do more than question the children." 

127 



"It would be no trouble, Father." 

"Later on, perhaps," said Fr. Rooney. "We'll have 
a talk about it later." 

There was consternation at the rectory when Mr. 
Freeman brought back the daily paper just after eleven 
o'clock. William had come round to discuss with 
Belinda the events of the evening before, of which Mr. 
Freeman had remained in complete ignorance until he 
saw the paper. 

"Good heavens," he said as he came into the sitting- 
room. "Did you know this St. Dingan is supposed to 
have materialized in the churchyard last night and 
cured an American woman of spinal trouble? And 
Miss Maconochie appears to have been in at it. I call 
it most un-neighbourly of her. She doesn't come to 
church, and yet she thinks she has the right to call up 
apparitions in my churchyard. I've never heard such 
nonsense in my life." Mr. Freeman looked suspiciously 
at William. "You seem to know something about it," 
he said. 

"Oh, I say," said William. "It's only that Uncle 
happened to be there, and Colonel Wotherspoon. I 
heard nothing else at breakfast. Luckily they got away 
before any reporters could get hold of them." 

"Your uncle in at it as well!" exclaimed Mr. Freeman. 
"And I thought he was practically a teetotaller at the 
moment because of his sciatica." 

"He is." 

"Well, I take it very hard that he's started seeing 
things in my churchyard. If he was wanting to see 
things there's a perfectly good churchyard round his own 
church. Though I don't know," said Mr. Freeman 
judicially, "whether you'd call it a churchyard or not 
round St. Joseph's. They've never buried people there." 

128 



"They couldn't help it, I suppose," said Belinda. 

Mr. Freeman paid no attention to this interruption. 

"I must get some wooden crates," he said. 

"Whatever for?" asked Belinda. 

"To pack my books. We must be ready to make a 
getaway. I might take a holiday locum in England for 
the summer and have a look round." 

"Oh, sir!" exclaimed William. 

"This place will be a — a menagerie in another week 
or two. I see St. Dingan is reported as having had the 
good sense to forbid anyone to dig up his bones. But 
they probably won't pay any attention to it." 

"Surely it will all die down now," said Belinda. 

Mr. Freeman threw her the paper. 

"Just read it," he said. "Some frightful fellow has 
suggested getting a water-diviner in, and then when 
they've located the exact place where St. Dingan is 
buried he says the sick can lie on top of the grave and 
be healed that way." 

"Oh, dear," said Belinda. "Then he just didn't do 
any good by appearing last night." 

"Frankly," said Mr. Freeman, "I can't think what 
he's up to. I don't want to speak disrespectfully of him 
if he was properly canonized, though I very much 
doubt whether he ever was — so few of these Celtic 
saints were — but he's been resting peacefully under our 
chancel floor for fifteen centuries, and now he suddenly 
starts raising Cain. Why? There's no sense in it. In 
any case, if he's really in heaven, he can't want any- 
thing else." 

When Mr. Freeman had gone back to his study, 
Belinda and William looked at each other in frank 
dismay. 

"I thought it had. all gone off so marvellously," said 

129 



William. "But of course we never dreamed they'd 
think of getting a water-diviner. Do you think he'd be 
any good?" 

"I don't suppose that matters. It depends on whether 
they thought he was. I mean, if he says he's found St. 
Dingan's tomb, and they believe him, they could just 
as well go on being healed by sitting on the tomb, or 
lying on it, or whatever they felt like doing." 

"It's really ghastly," said William. "Whatever are 
we going to do?" 

"I think we'd better fetch Patricia, and hold another 
Council of War. We'll say we're going shopping in 
Galway, and we can get the English papers. If we 
hurry up we'll be there in time for lunch." 

"She may be able to think of something," W T illiam 
said gloomily. "But I think the whole thing's gone too 
far. It's beyond our control." He was glancing over 
the report in the paper, and suddenly he smiled. "Did 
you see Miss Maconochie's version of what St. Dingan 
is supposed to have said?" 

Belinda looked over his shoulder, and then read out 
in her best Abbey Theatre Irish: 

"Leave me in peace 
Beneath these stones: 
I curse the man 
That moves my bones." 

"Actually," said William "it's quite as good as ours." 
"I see she says she has a great ear for poetry, so she 

was able to remember it without any trouble. I've 

forgotten how ours went exactly. I hope to goodness 

you didn't leave it on the tape-recorder." 

"Of course I didn't. But wasn't it odd, Uncle and the 

Colonel arriving just as the performance started. I 

130 



should have been petrified if I'd known they were 
there. And then the vestry door banged, and Patricia 
was still up on the window sill, so I made for the car 
and ran smack into Miss Maconochie. Luckily I gave 
her such a start she fell off the wall. I'd no idea she was 
back, of course." 

"It was lucky you left the car pointing out down the 
hill so you hadn't to start the engine," said Belinda. 

"You ought to have heard Uncle telling me all about 
it at breakfast. He described all the devils yelling round 
him. I suppose that was the American woman." 

"I shall never be able to keep a straight face when 
your uncle starts telling me about it. Oh, dear, things 
seem to be getting more and more complicated." 

Belinda went over to the window and stood looking 
out over the garden. 

"I shall just cry my eyes out if we really do have to 
leave," she said. "I don't know whether Daddy really 
means it or not. Sometimes I think he does, and some- 
times I think he's just putting on an act." She turned 
round from the window. "You know, I think the best 
thing we can do is to consult Fr. Rooney." 

William looked alarmed. 

"We couldn't possibly do that. He'd say we'd been 
sacrilegious, or whatever the thing is, and he'd be sure 
to tell Uncle. Besides, it wouldn't do any good. It 
doesn't alter the fact the Conneelly children say they 
saw St. Brigid and found that wretched bone." 

"I'd almost forgotten the Conneelly children. But 
anyway, the bone's gone, so that's one thing out of the 
way. And I'm quite sure Fr. Rooney wouldn't breathe 
a word if we asked him not to. After all, hearing con- 
fessions is part of his job." 

"But we aren't Roman Catholics." 

131 



"No, but don't you see, it shows he can keep a secret. 
I'm sure he's the only person who can do anything now. 
He can tell the people not to get hysterical, and they 
would listen to him as he's their parish priest." 

"Well, we'll get Patricia," said William, "and see 
what she says. I'll stand you all lunch at the Great 
Southern." 

The Commission was still sitting in the sacristy of St. 
Joseph's as they came down the hill in William's car, 
after collecting Patricia, and set out on the road to 
Galway. It took quite a long time to question Berna- 
dette and Brigid Conneelly because Fr. Driscoll had 
taken down all the questions and answers in his 
beautiful copperplate, but at last they had let the 
children go, after Fr. Rooney had taken them to kneel 
for a moment by the statue of the Blessed Virgin on the 
right of the chancel steps, and said a prayer with them, 
and now the three priests were discussing what their 
report to the bishop should be. 

"I should like to have a word with your school- 
teacher, Miss Macardle," said Canon Donoghue. "She 
seems to have inspired the children with a great love of 
the saints, and a great notion of their place in Irish 
history." 

"There seems no doubt about these miracles," ob- 
served Fr. Driscoll. "It is very unfortunate this bone 
was lost before it could be examined. Did you see it at 
all, Father?" 

"I did," said Fr. Rooney, to whom this question was 
addressed. "But I think I was anticipating something 
rather remarkable. After all, old Mrs. Conneelly, the 
children's grandmother, had turned up at Mass after 
being in bed for more than two years, and I was taking 
her the Sacrament only at Easter." 

132 



"Miss Macardle had been telling the children stories 
of St. Joan only that morning," said Canon Donoghue. 

"And the elder girl, Brigid, seems to have grown up 
with a definite awareness of her name saint," added Fr. 
Driscoll. 

"And of St. Dingan," put in the Canon, "whose 
grotto they decorated with flowers almost daily." 

"You think it was some kind of collective hallucina- 
tion, inspired by the older child?" asked Fr. Rooney. 

"I incline to that view," said the Canon. "I think it 
was subjective. What is your opinion, Father?" 

Fr. Driscoll was doodling on the notebook in front of 
him. He had drawn a bearded St. Dingan with a very 
large halo balanced rather rakishly on the side of his 
head. 

"I agree with you," he said. 

Mr. Thompson, if he could have heard them, would 
have been shocked at such scepticism. He was trying to 
persuade Mr. Freeman, over the telephone, to allow 
himself to be photographed receiving a cheque for five 
hundred dollars from Mrs. S hotter. 



133 



19 



william drove the car into a parking space at the top 
of Eyre Square just after a quarter past one. They all 
went back to the corner and bought the English papers 
at Holland's; they had just come in from the station. 
Ballydingan was on the front page of all of them, and 
the Daily Wire carried a large advertisement in a black 
box announcing an exclusive interview on the morrow 
in the Sunday Sun given by Miss Mairi Maconochie, the 
famous Connemara poetess. 

"Oh, dear," said Belinda, as they walked round the 
square to the Great Southern, "it would be fun if 
Daddy didn't mind so much." 

"The whole thing seems to have got out of control," 
said Patricia. 

"I was all against masquerading as St. Dingan," said 
William, rather smugly. 

"William!" exclaimed both the girls simultaneously. 

"Well, I was." 

"It was only because you were scared," said Belinda, 
"and wanted to make me be St. Brigid." 

"I wasn't scared at all," said William. He changed 
the subject. "Let's have a look at the papers in the 
lounge before we go in to lunch." 

Sitting in the lounge with the Globe, the Wire and the 

134 



Daily Press, they read the various accounts of what had 
been happening at Ballydingan with emotions which 
ranged from high glee to near panic. 

NEW LOURDES OF THE WEST 

was one of the headlines in the Wire. M urgatroyd had 
spread himself. His news editor had also included the 
wholly apocryphal story of St. Dingan's Boot. Under 
the heading 

SACRED RELIC IN PROTESTANT CHURCH 

it ran: 

Rev. Freeman, the Protestant minister at Bally- 
dingan, assured our reporter yesterday that 
miracles were nothing new in his church. "We 
have a boot of this St. Dingan," he told our 
reporter, "preserved in a glass case. It is, of course, 
a pampootie, which is a form of footwear still to be 
found in the Aran Islands." 

"Do you really think he told them that?" asked 
Patricia, who had been handed the paper by Belinda. 
"It isn't true, is it? At least I've never seen a pampootie 
in a glass case in your church!" 

"Of course he didn't say anything of the sort. Or if 
he did, he was only having the man on." 

"He's sure to be livid when he sees it," said William. 
"We'd better not take these papers home." 

"Look at this," said Belinda, holding up a copy of 
the Press. 

After recording the appearance of St. Dingan to 
Mrs. Shotter, who was described as "a Chicago 

135 



millionairess and socialite", and the healing of her back 
which, it was said, had been causing her trouble since 
her childhood, there followed a photograph of Miss 
Maconochie, taken some ten years previously, with the 
headline: 

FAMOUS POETESS SEES VISION 

After an account by Miss Maconochie of St. Dingan's 
springing up out of the ground in a cloud of smoke, and 
towering over her like something out of the Arabian 
Nights ("though you could feel his presence was pro- 
tective" Miss Maconochie had assured the reporter), 
there was given the rhymed curse on those who would 
disinter his bones. This was immediately followed by a 
further sub-heading: 

FAMOUS WATER-DIVINER CALLED IN 

In conjunction with the ecclesiastical authorities, 
the Daily Press is to make a determined effort to 
locate the remains of St. Dingan. It is known that 
he is buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity church, 
and if the remains could be located, their healing 
properties could be made available to the sick and 
suffering. For this purpose, the DAILY PRESS, 
which is ever on the alert to bring to its readers the 
latest benefits of modern scientific discovery, is 
flying a water-diviner out to Ballydingan today. 

"How frightful!" exclaimed Belinda. "It's just hope- 
less. Daddy will simply pack up and go. I know he 
will." 

"Surely we can do something," said William. 

"Can't we buy another padlock for the church 
door?" suggested Patricia. 

136 



"I don't suppose that would keep them out for long." 
Belinda was absorbed in another story in the Globe. 

"If they tried to break it, you could have them up," 
said Patricia. 

"Belinda thinks we ought to get Fr. Rooney to help," 
said William. 

"There's quite a bit about him here," said Belinda. 
"I'm sure he'll want to help when he's read it. He 
won't like it at all." 

PRIEST TO SUE FOR CUSTODY OF THE BONES 

was the headline. 

Our correspondent interviewed yesterday the 
genial Fr. O'Rooney, who is Roman Catholic 
Vicar of Ballydingan. He told him that the 
remains of St. Dingan undoubtedly belong to the 
Roman Catholic church as the Protestants are a 
recent arrival in the village. "We shall sue them 
in the High Court if necessary," said the Rev. Fr. 
O'Rooney, "unless they hand over the bones into 
our custody." 

"Cheek!" exclaimed William. 

"The poor darling, I don't suppose he said it at all," 
said Belinda. "And if he did, it was just a cod. You 
can't believe anything you read in the papers." 

At this moment the hall porter came into the lounge, 
and having glanced round, came across to speak to 
William. 

"You wouldn't have a seat in your car for a gentle- 
man who wants to get to Ballydingan?" he asked. 

"Absolutely impossible, John," said William. "I've 
only got the Fiat, and three's a bit much. Who is it?" 

137 



"It's this water-diviner man that's flown over to the 
Shannon and taken a car up here. He thought someone 
was meeting him." 

William's eyes lit up. 

"Of course I'll take him, John," he said. "Put him in 
the bar and you can introduce me in two minutes' 
time." 

"Have you gone a bit dippy?" Belinda inquired as 
the hall porter left the lounge. 

"I've got a scheme," said William. "It just came to 
me in a flash. I'm afraid you two will have to go back 
by the bus and I'll meet you at the Canal Bridge." 

"It's kind of you not to expect us to walk the ten or 
eleven miles from the Canal Bridge," said Patricia. 

"Wait till you hear the plan. I'll get round this chap 
on the drive back, and tell him I'll just show him where 
the tomb is supposed to be before I drop him in the 
village, and actually I'll take him to the Flaherty castle 
at the end of Lough Dhubach. If I tell him the tomb is 
in the dungeon there he's bound to want to have a look, 
and as soon as he goes down the steps I'll just let the 
trap door down again, and bolt it." 

"But we can't kill him," said Belinda. 

"Of course not," said William impatiently. "But 
we'll make him promise to go straight home or we 
won't let him out. After an hour or two down there 
he'll be ready to promise anything you like." 

"He might," said Patricia slowly. 

"We just won't let him out until he does." 

"Aren't there rats down there?" 

"All the better," said William. 

"We don't want to be too horrid to him," said 
Belinda. "I suppose the poor little man can't help 
being sent over in a way, if it's how he earns his living." 

138 



"But he's no right to mess about with St. Dingan," 
said William, "especially if it means your father leaving 
the parish." 

"We might try it," said Patricia. "But if he goes to 
the Guards afterwards, you'll get put in gaol, William." 

"I shan't lay a finger on him, so it can only be a civil 
offence," said William grandly, but quite incorrectly. 
"In any case, Irish courts are always lenient with 
people who are defending their homes. And we can say 
we were defending St. Dingan as well." 

"What about lunch?" asked Patricia. "I'm starving." 

"So am I," agreed Belinda. 

"We'll all have lunch together. I'll say you're two 
friends I've just met, so he won't smell a rat and wonder 
why you're not going back with me." 

"I don't see why he should smell a rat," said Patricia. 
"He can't have the remotest suspicion that anyone is 
intending to shanghai him in the Flaherty castle." 

"I'll go and get him," said William. 



139 



20 



the water-diviner proved to be a ferrety little man 
with thin, gingery hair and crooked teeth. He told 
William rather aggressively, as soon as the hall porter 
had introduced him, that he was a Cockney and proud 
of it, and as if to emphasize the fact he dropped some of 
his aitches and added supernumerary ones on no 
clearly ascertainable plan. His name was Higgett. 

"Have a drink, Mr. Higgett," said William. 

"Mild and bitter," said Mr. Higgett. 

"I'm afraid they only have bottled beer." 

"Coo, what a place." Mr. Higgett pronounced it 
"plice". 

"What about a Bass?" asked William. 

"It'll have to do," said Mr. Higgett, a little un- 
graciously. "Weren't you supposed to be meeting me 
at the airport?" 

"I'm afraid the chap that was going to meet you 
hasn't been able to get over. There were developments 
this morning." 

"I get you," said Mr. Higgett. "Rum do altogether 
if you asks me. But it won't do to cross his lordship." 

"His lordship?" William nearly spilled his beer. 

"Lord Rotherbrook, 'im that owns the paper," said 
Mr. Higgett impatiently. "Here's mud in your eye." 

140 



He took a mouthful of beer and then ran his tongue 
round his lips, making smacking noises as he did so. 
"Not bad," he said. "But I always says beer doesn't 
travel." 

"I thought we'd have lunch before we went to Bally- 
dingan," said William. "I have two ladies with me if 
you wouldn't mind them joining us for lunch." 

Mr. Higgett gave him a prodigious wink. 

"I always was one for the ladies," he said. "Bless 
their little hearts. Wine, women and song, hey?" And 
he nudged William in the ribs with his elbow. 

William blushed scarlet, much to Mr. Higgett's great 
delight. 

"I've always been a lady's man," he said. "I've 
buried two wives, and now I'm on me third." 

"I'll fetch the girls in for a drink," said William 
hurriedly. He hoped nobody was listening to the con- 
versation. "Shan't be a minute." 

"Take your time," said Mr. Higgett. "We've all day." 

In the lounge William said: 

"He's a frightful little tick. I shan't mind shutting 
him up in the Flaherty dungeon one bit." 

Mr. Higgett said "Pleased to meetcher," when the 
girls were introduced, and leered quite horribly at 
Belinda. 

"You an Irish colleen?" he asked. 

"I suppose so," said Belinda. 

"You talk English," observed Mr. Higgett. 

"Most people do." 

"I thought there'd be more of a brogue about it." 
Mr. Higgett sounded disappointed, as if he'd been 
cheated out of something. "It's the first time I've been 
over here, you know, and I'd always understood they 
went about in donkey carts, and wore funny 'ats and 

141 



carried shillelaghs, and said 'Bejabers'. I haven't seen 
anything but 'igh-powered American cars yet, and I 
haven't 'eard anyone say 'Bejabers'. It seems more like 
England." 

"A lot of the things you think of as being Irish are not 
real Irish at all," said Patricia. "They were just in- 
vented in the old days by the English to make them feel 
superior." 

"There's another thing," said Mr. Higgett. "Paddy's 
pig. I haven't seen a pig yet." 

"I don't expect you will see one," said William. "I 
don't think there's a pig in Ballydingan. Ordinary 
people can't afford to keep them now. You see it's only 
a little country, and it takes an awful lot of money to 
run it like a big one, with a Parliament, and ambas- 
sadors, and all that sort of thing. So Paddy's pig has 
disappeared." He glanced at the clock. "It's getting 
late, we'd better go in to lunch." 

"You'll 'ave lunch on me," said Mr. Higgett, giving 
another leer at Belinda. "His lordship pays all ex- 
penses." 

"Oh, no, lunch is on me," said William. It would 
hardly be possible to lock someone up in a dungeon if 
they had just stood you lunch. "He means Lord 
Rotherbrook," he explained to Belinda and Patricia. 

"He called me in five or six years ago," said Mr. 
Higgett as they walked down the corridor to the 
dining-room." 'E 'as a 'ouse in 'Ertfordshire, yessee, and 
there's a drought on. His electric pump just fetches up 
mud, and 'e can' t 'ave 'is cup o' char, let alone wash 'isself. 
Someone tells him of me." Mr. Higgett stopped at the 
entrance to the dining-room, perhaps to recover a few 
aspirates, and put his hand on Belinda's arm. "I'm a 
seventh son of a seventh son," he said solemnly. 

142 



"How marvellous," said Belinda. "Then you can 
kill worms by looking at them." 

"I don't know about that," said Mr. Higgett 
dubiously. "It's not a thing I've ever been asked to do. 
But I have a Gift." 

The head waiter put them at a table by one of the 
windows. 

"Do tell us about it," Belinda urged him. 

Mr. Higgett required no encouragement. 

"I was brought up in Poplar," he began, "and I 
used to 'ang about the docks. It was easier in them days 
nor it is now. And I heard an old chap telling 'ow some 
people can find water with a 'azel twig. Of course, I 
know now that you don't need no 'azel twig if you 'ave 
the Gift like I 'ave, but I was only a kid at the time. 
Well, nothing would suit me till I got our mam to take 
us out to Epping Forest so I could get some 'azel twigs. 
She took four of us. I was the youngest, except for our 
Patricia Mary, who didn't count, being a girl, see, and 
the three eldest were working. We came back loaded 
with branches. I took them round to school on the 
Monday morning — I was still at school in the West 
India Dock Road you understand — because we 'ad a 
botany teacher who was keen on you getting specimens, 
and there wasn't much you could get outside of Victoria 
Park, and most of the time you 'ad to run for it if you 
got anything out of the Park. Well, would you believe 
it, she said there wasn't a hazel among them. I could 
'ave cried, although I was quite a big lad, getting on for 
twelve I'd be. There was oak, and ash, and 'ornbeam — 
I've never forgotten them — but there was no 'azel. 
She could see how disappointed I was, and she told me 
she was going out to Wanstead Flats the next evening, 
and there were 'azels there, so she'd bring me a branch." 

143 



William, Belinda and Patricia were listening so en- 
thralled by this narrative that the waiter had difficulty in 
attracting William's attention. 

"We'll have soup, and steak pie," said William. 
"Anybody rather have something cold? Steak pie all 
right for you, Mr. Higgett? Steak pie for four, waiter. 
Do go on, Mr. Higgett." 

"Well, she brought this 'azel to school on the Wed- 
nesday morning. I shall never forget it. I breaks a 
forked piece off carefully, almost as if I was going to 
make a catapult, but lighter, you understand? And at 
playtime I takes it out and walks with it in me 'ands 
over the playground. It was asphalt, you know, like 
they are. And, suddenly, the 'azel twig snaps in me 
'and, and the next minute there's a sort of an explosion, 
and a piece of the asphalt flies up and knocks me right 
back, and a great spout of water roars up into the air." 

"Goodness!" exclaimed Belinda. "How marvellous." 

"It was a mains 'ad burst," said Mr. Higgett. "Some 
of us didn't 'alf get wet through. We 'ad to go 
'ome. Mam played pop, but dad told her I 'ad the 
Gift." 

"Amazing," said William. "I suppose the mains 
would have burst in any case, but your twig located it 
just before it happened." 

"You say you don't use hazel twigs now," Patricia 
said. "What do you use?" 

"You don't need 'em, not with the Gift. Besides, I 
can find anything now, it needn't be water. Like this 
corpse they've asked me to locate." 

"How do you do it?" 

"It's difficult to explain," said Mr. Higgett. "But I 
'ave a sort of 'um in me 'ead." 

"A what?" exclaimed Belinda. "Oh, yes, I see." 

144 



"A sort of toon. And it's different for everything 
they asks me to find. Like a different wave length, 
you might say. I just walks along where they think 
it might be, and suddenly this 'um comes into me 
'ead." 

"Have you ever tried to find gold?" asked William. 

"It's funny you should ask me that. After I found the 
water for his lordship he did think of sending me out to 
find gold, and put it in the paper, see?" 

"And what happened?" asked Patricia. 

"He cried off before we got started. You see,most of 
the places where you're likely to find gold are in foreign 
parts, and I'm not bound to find any if there isn't any 
there. And with this Gift I can find the least trace, so 
there was no banking on it being a commercial pro- 
position, and his lordship isn't one to throw his money 
away for nothing. I can't go looking for water when 
there's dew on the grass," explained Mr. Higgett, 
"because I get the 'um all the time." 

"How do you tell the different hums?" asked Patricia 
earnestly. "I mean, what is the difference between the 
one for water, say, and the one for gold?" 

"That's part of the Gift, see? I 'as to set me mind on 
the thing I'm looking for. Like this corpse now. And 
then I get the right kind of 'um." 

"It's not exactly a corpse," William told him. "It's 
bones. The chap's been dead fifteen hundred years. 
There can't be much of a hum." 

"William," said Patricia reprovingly. 

"If 'is remains is there, I shall find 'em," said Mr. 
Higgett confidently. "I 'ad it once explained to me by a 
scientific lady — really tophological she was — a friend 
of his lordship's. She told me it's all a matter of vibra- 
tions in the hether. Not the sort of hether you 'ave in 

145 



hoperations," explained Mr. Higgett, whose earnestness 
seemed to play havoc with his aspirates, "because I 'ad 
that once and it made me sick as a dog, if you'll excuse 
the expression. But stuff that's in the air and hall 
through space. Some people are tooned in to these 
vibrations, and some are not. In fact," said Mr. Hig- 
gett, "there's not many of us." 

"You have to be the seventh son of a seventh son?" 
asked Belinda. 

"It doesn't always follow," said Mr. Higgett. "If you 
are a seventh son of a seventh son you 'ave the Gift 
natural like. But some 'ave the Gift who have no 
family behind them at all. We 'ad a conference once 
at Oxford College, got up by his lordship, and there 
were one or two who 'ad the Gift and 'ad only one or 
two brothers." 

"Weren't there any women?" asked Patricia. 

Mr. Higgett shook his head. 

"It's like clergicals," he said. "The Gift doesn't come 
on women." 

"I don't think that's fair," said Patricia. "In fact I 
should think it's just male prejudice. There must be 
seventh daughters of seventh daughters." 

"I've never 'eard of any," said Mr. Higgett. "It 
stands to reason you'd 'ave 'eard of them if there' d 
been any." 

"Not necessarily," said Patricia. "The world was 
run by men until quite recently." 

When the party broke up, William took Belinda and 
Patricia aside while Mr. Higgett went to get his bag 
from the cloakroom. 

"I hardly like shutting him up," he said. "He seems 
quite a nice little man." 

"You must harden your heart," said Belinda. "It 
146 



would be awful if he found St. Dingan's bones, and 
Ballydingan became a second Lourdes." 

"He's an anti-feminist," said Patricia sternly. "It 
won't do him any harm to lock him in the Flaherty 
dungeon for a time. I hope Grace O'Malley comes and 
haunts him." 



147 



21 



William had very little difficulty, as it turned out, in 
marooning Mr. Higgett in the depths of the Flaherty 
castle. 

At first Mr. Higgett had rather taken exception to 
the car, which was not the sort of vehicle, in his 
opinion, favoured by the staff of his lordship's news- 
papers. He had never known Fleet Street in the gay 
Twenties, when young editorial assistants, just down 
from Oxford or Cambridge, roared around Fleet Street 
in anything from a bull-nose Morris to a supercharged 
Mercedes. He was a little reassured when William 
reminded him that he was in Ireland, and the tax on a 
1 6 horse power car was £40 a year. 

"Only politicians and the lowest class of gombeen 
men can afford such cars," said William. 

"You think it'll get us there?" 

"Don't you worry," said William. "It has a heart of 
gold." 

On the way, William pointed out various interesting 
items of scenery. Between Oughterard and Maam 
Cross he indicated the bridge and the little village 
where some of the scenes in the Quiet Man were shot. 

"I didn't see it," said Mr. Higgett. "I like Westerns 
meself. What's the cinema like where we're going?" 

148 



"There isn't one," said William. On which Mr. 
Higgett gazed at him in open-eyed astonishment. 
"They show films in the parochial hall or the town hall 
at Clifden on Sunday nights." 

"On Sundays!" exclaimed Mr. Higgett. "I was 
brought up strict." 

When they had passed Recess, William began to 
prepare the ground. 

"We shall be seeing the castle in a few minutes," he 
said. 

"What castle?" asked Mr. Higgett. 

"You know, where you are going to do your stuff." 

"Castle," said Mr. Higgett. "They didn't tell me it 
was a castle. They gave me to understand it was a 
ruddy church." 

"It's a sort of crypt," said William. "Like the 
catacombs, you know. Lots of castles had chapels 
attached to them in the old days. St. Dingan died 
fifteen hundred years ago, you know." 

"Coo, lumme, there won't be much of 'im left," said 
Mr. Higgett. 

"I suppose if you find him, they'll move him up to the 
village," said William. "There's the castle." He 
pointed to the left, ahead of them. "At the end of the 
lake, there." 

"It's a ruin," said Mr. Higgett. 

"I expect it's such a long time since he was buried 
there are no vibrations left," said William. 

"Don't you kid yourself," said Mr. Higgett. "If 'e's 
there I'll find 'im. There's nothing I can't find if I set 
my mind on it." 

"I wonder if any of the chaps are over there," said 
William. 

"It doesn't look far from the road." 

149 



"It's a good quarter of a mile." William glanced at 
his watch. "We' ve time to walk over if you like. Have 
you got your hazel twig with you? Oh, you don't use 
one, of course." 

"I don't see nobody about," said Mr. Higgett, a 
shade doubtfully. 

"They've probably gone home to tea," said William, 
slowing down. "We might have a preliminary run. I 
should love to see how you do it." He brought the car 
to a stop. "What do you think? Shall we walk over?" 

"I don't mind," said Mr. Higgett, though it was 
clear he preferred the limelight and an audience. "If I 
locate 'im once I can locate 'im again." 

They dropped over the wall, crossed a field, and then 
climbed the mound on which the ruins of the castle 
stood. The mound was covered with bog myrtle, and 
brambles, and clumps of furze. There was hardly a 
ripple on the lake, and in the far distance Colonel 
Wotherspoon's house, set in a bank of trees, could be 
seen reflected in the water. 

"Blimey, there's nothing much of the place left," said 
Mr. Higgett. 

"The crypt is underground, of course," said William. 
He wondered if Mr. Higgett could hear how noisily his 
heart was beating. He lifted the wooden trapdoor in 
the centre of the keep as he spoke. The woodwork was 
fairly new, as the Colonel had renewed it the year 
before when a cow had fallen down the hole and 
broken a leg. "Shall I go first?" 

"If I'm going to find this 'ere corpse, I mustn't 'ave 
nobody with me," said Mr. Higgett. "Not till I gets 
the 'urn." 

"Well, here's a torch," said William. It was the same 
one that had been used the night before to project St. 

150 



Dingan's halo. "Give me a shout when I can come 
down." 

Mr. Higgett went stolidly down the rough stone 
steps. As soon as his head was below the level of the 
floor, William banged down the covering and shot the 
bolts. There was a muffled shout from beneath his feet. 

"What the 'ell's the gime?" 

"Mr. Higgett, can you hear me?" 

"I can hear you, you young " 

"Swearing won't do you any good, Mr. Higgett. 
And I thought you'd just told me you were brought up 
strict. Just listen to me a minute. You don't want to 
die, do you?" 

There was a sudden silence below. 

"You could die very easily down there. You would 
starve to death and nobody would be any the wiser." 
William had quite a lively imagination. "But before 
that could happen, the waters would have risen up and 
drowned you. If the rats had left anything, that is. Can 
you hear me, Mr. Higgett?" 

There was no answer from below. 

"You don't want to die, do you?" 

In answer to this Mr. Higgett began to knock on the 
underside of the trapdoor with a stone. 

"It won't do any good," said William. "It's made 
specially strong. But if you promise to go straight back 
to England we'll let you out and take you to Galway 
and put you on the train. But if you won't promise, 
you'll stay there till you die and rot away. And in 
fifteen hundred years from now perhaps some bloody 
man will come and try to find your bones, and you'll 
see how you like that." 

"I'll 'ave the Law on you," came the muffled voice 
of Mr. Higgett from under William's feet. 

151 



"You've heard of the Troubles," said William. 
"Hundreds and hundreds of people just disappeared 
and were never heard of again. And you won't be 
heard of again unless you promise on your honour 
never to go near Ballydingan." 

Mr. Higgett went on banging away at the trapdoor, 
but he must have found it tiring for his arm. 

"All right," said William. "I've warned you. I'll 
leave you for an hour or two until you've had time to 
cool down and think about things. In an hour or two 
you may feel like promising to go away. If you don't, 
well, I'm sorry for you." 

The muffled knocking followed him for a little way 
as he went back towards the car, and then died away. 
He tried not to think of what would happen if Mr. 
Higgett remained obdurate. Plainly they couldn't 
leave him there all night. The scheme began to look 
rather less satisfactory than it had done when he had 
first thought of it in Galway. He glanced at his watch. 
It was not yet four o'clock. He would go and meet 
Belinda and Patricia at Oughterard. 



152 



22 



professor murphy or, as he himself preferred to write 
it, O Murcada, with dots over the c and the d, which 
have the effect of aspirates, so that it might be written 
O Murchadha, was Professor of Celtic Antiquities at 
Galway, which is a constituent College of the National 
University. He was as unlike the roaring Celt of the 
Golden Age of Mythology as could be imagined, being 
a sallow little man with peptic ulcers, whose whole life 
had been one long disgruntlement. Indeed, his choice 
of academic career and the studies to which he had 
devoted the greater part of his life had been consciously 
made on the sole ground that Celtic studies were of no 
importance and could not be of the slightest practical 
use to anybody. 

Although professor of a faculty, Professor Murphy, 
did not disdain the seekers after elementary Irish, for 
all was grist that came to his mill, so long as payment 
was made, and made promptly. As all State jobs in the 
Republic, from post office messenger to headmaster of a 
national school and bank manager (though not includ- 
ing Deputies to the Dail) require knowledge of Irish 
as their primary and essential qualification, Professor 
Murphy was never without a steady stream of pupils. 
He had brought to a fine art the passing of the various 

J 53 



compulsory examinations in Irish, so that his pupils 
were able to pass them without over-burdening their 
minds with a subject they would never again have any 
use for. The essence of Irish — and the Gaelic of the 
Scottish Highlands — is simple: the expressing of sounds 
with the maximum number of letters possible, no letter 
to have the slightest relation to the sound it would bear 
in any other European language. 

His wife, only two generations from the bog, which 
is the best Irish stock of all, was a big, hearty woman 
with black hair only just beginning to turn grey, and 
rosy cheeks which perpetually renewed their bloom in 
the soft air of Iar Connacht. Her five children were all 
grown up and in the key positions to which their here- 
ditary knowledge of the Irish language entitled them. 
Mrs. Murphy was an even more fluent Irish speaker 
than her husband, for she had been born and bred in 
the Connacht Gaeltacht where her father had been a 
schoolmaster, though he had never risen very far for he 
was a peaceable man, and even at the height of the 
Troubles had never been able to bring himself to shoot 
an Englishman. Her husband winced visibly whenever 
she expressed herself in the language of the Ard-Rigte, 
or High Kings, for her pronunciation was that of Con- 
nacht, and for Professor Murphy there was only one 
pure well of Irish undefiled, and that was the district of 
West Munster. Her pronunciation of the word 
"Tuam", a pleasant town in north Gal way, the seat of a 
Catholic archbishop and a Protestant bishop, had been 
known to drive him out of the house, when he might be 
seen, a sad, dyspeptic-looking figure in an ill-fitting 
macintosh, head down against the wind, muttering to 
himself on the road to Moycullen. 

In England Mrs. Murphy would have been the life 

154 



and soul of her neighbourhood, President of the 
Women's Institute or Townswomen's Guild, on plat- 
forms and committees, ameliorating the lot of children 
or raising the status of domestic animals, lecturing, 
demonstrating, and generally dispersing the energy 
gained from her somewhat over-developed thyroid. In 
Ireland, unfortunately, most activities are run by the 
Church, and the lectures and demonstrations, where 
they are given, are mostly given by the clergy and 
members of religious orders, and the opportunities 
available to Mrs. Murphy were somewhat circum- 
scribed. 

She did her best by taking an interest in her hus- 
band's pupils, and on this particular Saturday after- 
noon had asked two men and two women to tea. Some- 
times Professor Murphy would take tea with them and 
sometimes not, it depended on the state of his digestion 
and the general functioning of his liver. On this day 
the portents were favourable, and he was seated in the 
large armchair at the side of the fireplace in the front 
room. There was no fire in the grate, and in its place 
was a large paper fan on which Mrs. Murphy's eldest 
daughter had painted in watercolour an idealized and 
imaginary Connemara cottage. Tea had not yet 
arrived, and the two women were arguing with the two 
men about cumal (a typical Gaelic word in which the m 
is silent), and on what basis a slave woman had been 
valued at three cows. 

"A very reasonable valuation," observed Professor 
Murphy. 

"What did the slave women do?" asked one of the 
women. 

The man sitting by her on the sofa gave her a wink, 
which, fortunately for him, the professor did not observe. 

155 



"They did the work," said the professor shortly. 

"I suppose slavery was abolished by St. Patrick?" 
said the other woman. 

The reference to St. Patrick brought the conversation 
round to the recent happenings at Ballydingan, and 
just as Mrs. Murphy came in with the tea, someone asked 
the professor if anything was known about St. Dingan. 

"He was a companion of St. Brigid," the professor 
answered without hesitation, "and is buried at Kildare." 

"The newspapers say he is buried at Ballydingan," 
observed the man on the sofa. 

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Professor Murphy. "He had 
an oratory at Ballydingan for a time — I believe he was 
a friend of St. Flannon — but he certainly retired to 
Kildare and was buried there a year or two later." 

"It's in the papers," said Mrs. Murphy brightly. 
"I'm only just after reading about it. They're getting a 
water-diviner in from London to locate St. Dingan's 
remains in the Protestant church at Ballydingan." 

"They must be mad," said the professor shortly. 
"Get on with your tea, I'll be back in a moment." 

Mrs. Murphy was noted for her teas, which was why 
her invitations were seldom refused even on a Saturday 
afternoon. The students sat down to ham, eggs and 
sausages, and it was a few minutes before conversation 
was resumed. 

"It seems curious that all this has been happening in 
the Protestant church." 

"It was the Catholic church before the English 
Reformation." 

"But you'd think, now, a Catholic saint would appear 
round the Catholic church. I know Ballydingan be- 
cause I spent a holiday there last summer, and it's only 
a step down the hill to the Catholic church." 

156 



Professor Murphy came into the room at this moment 
carrying two large books. 

"St. Dingan returned to St. Brigid's first foundation 
at Kildare in 492," he said, "and died two years later. 
He was buried in the precincts of the monastery, and 
was noted for curing scurvy. Why anyone should wish 
to dispute this passes my comprehension. I have here the 
Annates Sanctorum Hiberniorum and also the Chronicon. I pre- 
sume you can all understand Latin. The Annates say — " 

But his wife interrupted him. 

"Now do come and get your tea, Michael. There's 
no one disputing with you. It's what these foolish 
fellows who run the newspapers have been saying, and 
nobody pays any attention to them at all." 

"Unfortunately they do," said the professor. "Why 
have they put it in the papers? Why are they trying to 
distort and falsify Irish history in this way?" 

"Well, there's nothing you can do about it now," 
said his wife. "Come and eat your tea while it's hot." 

"I can ring up the parish priest. In fact that is what I 
will do. He is the person to give the lie to these idiotic 
reports. Buried at Ballydingan, indeed! I am not 
going to submit to our having the lives of the Irish 
saints re- written by English newspapers." 

Fr. Rooney was surprised to hear that a Professor 
Murphy wished to speak to him on the telephone. 
Canon Donoghue and Fr. Driscoll were having a cup of 
tea with him before returning, Canon Donoghue to his 
parish and Fr. Driscoll to Galway. 

"Hullo," he said. "Fr. Rooney here." 

"Is that you, Father. This is Professor Murphy, 
Professor of Celtic Antiquities at Galway." 

"Ah, yes," said Fr. Rooney. "I thought the name 
was familiar. We met at dinner last winter." 

157 



"We did. But I'm ringing you about this ridiculous 
story that St. Dingan is buried in your parish. Of 
course he is buried in Kildare." 

"He is!" 

"Certainly he is. There was never any question of 
his being buried in Ballydingan. I cannot think how 
such a story has ever arisen. He had a cell at Bally- 
dingan for some years, which is why the village takes 
his name from him, I suppose. He used to touch people 
for scurvy, but he retired to Kildare in 492, and there's 
no doubt at all he was buried there." 

"I'm glad to hear it." 

"I beg your pardon." 

"I'm very glad to hear it," said Fr. Rooney cheer- 
fully. "It has relieved me of a good deal of anxiety. It 
was very kind of you to ring me up, Professor Murphy." 

"I thought you might deny the story that's going 
round, perhaps from the pulpit. We have enough 
falsifications of Irish history going round as it is." 

"I will do that. But I think you should write to the 
papers too. Something authoritative. Come, you're 
one of our foremost Celtic scholars. There couldn't be 
anyone better." 

When Fr. Rooney reported the gist of this conversa- 
tion to his two colleagues, there was a moment's silence. 

"It confirms the conclusion we had tentatively 
arrived at," said Canon Donoghue at length. "The 
message must have been a product of the elder girl's 
imagination." 

"The inexplicable thing is these alleged miracles with 
what was thought to be a relic of St. Dingan," said Fr. 
Driscoll. 

"Faith is a wonderful thing," said Fr. Rooney. "I 
suppose not all the relics in the past that have worked 

158 



authentic miracles have been genuine in the sense that 
they were indeed what they were reputed to be. But 
our Blessed Lord and His Saints were able to use them." 

"That is so," said the Canon. "I take it, then, the 
report as we have signed it stands?" 

The others agreed. 

"And now," said Fr. Rooney. "I think we shall soon 
see the backs of these newspaper fellows." 



159 



23 



except when he was out fishing, when the business in 
hand was too serious to admit of interruptions, Colonel 
Wotherspoon always enjoyed a cup of tea in the after- 
noon. More accurately, he enjoyed several cups, and 
he had no use for the small, delicate crockery which 
ladies think is the appropriate accompaniment of after- 
noon tea. He liked a breakfast cup, and a breakfast cup 
which held almost half a pint. It was at this hour of the 
day he generally read the newspaper, for it did not 
arrive in time to be read at breakfast, and the Colonel 
did not believe in reading over lunch, even when he was 
alone. 

On this Saturday afternoon the column devoted to 
the events in Bally dingan attracted his attention just as 
he had poured out his third cup. His first was usually 
occupied by the London letter and the Correspondence, 
his second by Myles na Gopaleen, or cricket reports if 
there were any, and the third was devoted to a brief 
browsing round the news columns. 

Although the report, as might be expected from The 
Irish Times, was not sensational, reading between the 
lines Colonel Wotherspoon almost sensed the end of 
Ballydingan as he had known it. In his mind's eye he 
saw buses, char-a-bancs, hordes of trippers, souvenir 

1 60 



stalls, ice-cream cartons, litter, noise, all the flotsam and 
jetsam of an urban civilization on the spree, in a sort of 
kaleidoscope of horror. 

A water-diviner has been called in by a London 
newspaper who is confident that he can locate the 
exact position where the remains of St. Dingan are 
buried. Ballydingan is already being referred to as 
the Lourdes of the West. . . . 

The words swam before the Colonel's grief-stricken 
eyes. 

"O my God!" he said. "The place is finished. " 

'He left his third cup untouched at the side of his 
chair, a sure sign of extreme perturbation, and crossed 
to the window which looked down over the limpid 
depths of Lough Dhubach and away to the O'Flaherty 
ruin at the end of the lake set against the green and blue 
background of the Twelve Bens. Occasionally there 
was a slight splash as a lazy brown trout rose to a fly, 
and the ripples spread out in a ring until they were lost 
to siglit. But all the Colonel could see, in a sort of 
clairvoyant haze, was a scum of floating ice-cream 
cartons and cigarette packets, newspapers and toffee 
wrappings, while his nose was filled with the fumes of 
burnt diesel oil and petrol, and his ears resounded with 
the shrill cries of demoniac children. 

"It's too beastly," he said, and made his way out of 
the house, absent-mindedly taking up a trout rod as he 
crossed the hall. Slowly he descended to the level of the 
lake, and began to walk along the left-hand bank, his 
air of dejection that of one about to bid it farewell for 
ever. 

It must have been just after five o'clock when the 
Colonel arrived at the farther end of the lake, and 

161 



stood miserably looking across that delightful stretch of 
water to the house from which he must so soon uproot 
himself. And as he stood, sunk in gloom, heedless of the 
rising trout and even of his deadly enemy, a black 
cormorant which made its purposeful way almost over 
his head, a curious sound began to penetrate his con- 
sciousness, a kind of rhythmic knocking which came 
in tired bursts from somewhere immediately behind 
him. He glanced up at the ruins of the O'Flaherty keep, 
and the thought crossed his mind that perhaps tourists 
were in the underground storeroom, popularly known 
as the dungeon. There had been a court case about the 
cow which had fallen through the old trapdoor, 
though it had been dismissed on the grounds of con- 
tributory negligence, because the cow had no shadow of 
right to be on the property at all. In a few weeks' time 
the Colonel would not be caring whether the trapdoor 
remained open or not, and he felt almost cheered at the 
thought that an unsuspecting pilgrim might even fall 
down the steps and break his neck. But at the moment 
the property was still his, and he decided to inspect the 
new trapdoor which he had had made the previous 
year. He left his rod against a rock on the foreshore and 
climbed the mound to the castle. 

"Extraordinary thing!" he exclaimed, for there was 
no question now but that the hammering was coming 
from beneath the trapdoor. A particularly savage 
tattoo greeted him as he stepped under the archway 
into the tower. 

"Hullo there!" said the Colonel. 

"Let me out," came a muffled and exhausted cry. 

"What are you doing?" 

This was scarcely a tactful question. Mr. Higgett's 
cup bubbled over. 

162 



"I'll 'ave the Law on you," he shouted, and Mr. 
Higgett rolled his r's at the end of the word Law in a 
most threatening fashion. "I'll 'ave you gaoled." 

"My good man, I would have you know that you are 
trespassing on my property," said the Colonel. "Who 
are you?" 

"I'm Mr. 'Iggett, and I was shut up 'ere by a vil- 
lainous, red 'aired rascal hours ago." 

"A cow fell down there last year," said the Colonel, 
"and the court ruled that it had no locus standi on the 
property at all. So you have still less, as human beings 
are supposed to be rational beings where animals are 
not." 

Mr. Higgett gave a sob of indignation and exhaustion. 

"Let me out," he said. 

"I suppose I had better release you," said the 
Colonel, and stooped to shoot the bolt. A dishevelled 
Mr. Higgett, even more ferrety- looking than usual, 
pushed up the cover and began slowly to emerge. 

"I can't think why you came here," said the Colonel. 
"And where is your friend?" 

"'E's no friend of mine," said Mr. Higgett, feebly 
dusting down his blue serge suit. "A red 'aired devil 
in an old Fiat car." 

The Colonel started. 

"A Fiat car?" he said. 

"I ought to 'ave known no respectable journalist 
would 'ave a car like that," said Mr. Higgett. "No one 
employed by Lord Rotherbrook at any rate." 

"Lord Rotherbrook!" The Colonel was getting be- 
wildered. It had seemed for a moment possible that 
William was the person responsible for incarcerating 
this revolting little man in the Flaherty dungeon, but 
William had no connection with Lord Rotherbrook. 

163 



" 'Is lordship sent me 'ere from London to locate this 
corpse that's missing, and this red 'aired devil met me 
in Galway and brought me 'ere and said it was the 
place. And when I goes down to 'ave a dekko 'e shuts 
me in." 

The Colonel's intuitions had begun to work overtime. 

"Then you're the man," he began, and stopped. 
This was the man, the fiend in human shape, whose 
efforts would result in turning Ballydingan from a 
terrestrial paradise to a hell on earth unless something 
was done, and done quickly. Some benefactor of the 
human race had shut him up, and he, Colonel Wother- 
spoon, had foolishly set him at liberty again to go on 
with his nefarious work. 

"A tall young fellow with red hair?" asked the Colonel. 

"That's 'im. 'E 'ad two women with 'im in Galway. 
They're hall in the plot. I knows it now. Laughing at 
me, they was. I'll have the Law on them." 

"They had a small Fiat?" 

"A reg'lar little rattletrap. Painted red." 

The Colonel saw it all. William had done his best. 
He would give him a handsome tip when he went up 
to Cambridge in the autumn. 

"And he brought you here to find the remains of St. 
Dingan?" 

"I've flown from London at 'is lordship's request, 
see? And no one meets me at the airport. So I takes a 
taxi to Galway. And I'm introduced to this fellow and 
'e says 'e'll take me to Ballydingan. I don't like the 
look of 'is car, but there seems no 'elp for it as the porter 
said it was a good forty miles, and I goes with 'im. 
Then 'e tells me this is the place, and I agree to 'ave a 
preliminary dekko. And I just starts going down these 
'ere steps when he slams the lid down and tells me 'e's 

164 



going to leave me to be eaten by rats and drowned by 
the tide unless I promise to go straight back to England." 

"Stout fellow," said the Colonel absently. "There 
isn't a tide, of course, it's fresh water." Even as he spoke 
he was deciding on a line of action. It might work. "I 
should very seriously advise you to get back to England 
as soon as you possibly can." 

Mr. Higgett looked at him dumbly. There was a 
note of authority in the Colonel's voice. Mr. Higgett 
had served, much against his inclination, in the 
Pioneer Corps for some three years of the last war and 
because, or in spite of that, knew something of military 
discipline. The Colonel glanced at his watch. 

"There's a bus to Galway will be coming along the 
road here at any minute," he said briskly. "I advise you 
to get back to England while the going's good, and 
while you still have a whole skin. This is Ireland, you 
know, the Republic of Ireland, and the Queen's writ 
doesn't run here any more. People are very much 
against this St. Dingan's being disturbed. You've 
heard of the Troubles?" asked the Colonel, warming to 
his theme. "I wouldn't give that for your life," and the 
Colonel snapped his fingers in the air, "if you go to 
Bally dingan now." 

"Oo, I say," said Mr. Higgett blankly. 

"Feeling is running high," said the Colonel grimly. 
"The fellow who put you down there is quite an 
ordinary, decent sort. But once he's roused he'll do 
anything. Are you married?" 

"I am," said Mr. Higgett. "I've been married three 
times." 

"Well, if you want to see your wife again, I should 
take this bus and get back to England. You'll regret it 
if you don't." 

165 



They had begun to walk down the slope and make 
their way to the road. 

"Where's my bag I want to know?" said Mr. 
Higgett. 

"It will be sent on," said the Colonel, but as they 
neared the wall they saw it where William had left it 
before he went back down the road to Oughterard. 

"Someone might 'ave stolen it," said Mr. Higgett 
angrily. 

"Certainly not," said the Colonel, forgetting the 
picture of lawlessness which he had been painting for 
Mr. Higgett only a moment before. "People don't 
steal other people's bags in Ireland. But," he added 
quickly, realizing that he had perhaps made a bloomer, 
"they'd cut your throat as soon as look at you if you get 
the wrong side of them." 

In the distance down the road from Clifden could be 
seen the green, single-decker Galway bus with Bartley 
Egan at the wheel. 

"I earnestly advise you to get back while you can," 
said the Colonel. He thrust his left hand into his inside 
pocket and with his right waved to stop the bus. 
"Here's a fiver," he said. "For expenses. But if you 
come back, I can't guarantee to rescue you a second 
time." 

Whether Mr. Higgett would have gone if he had had 
time to reflect, it is impossible to say. His native Cock- 
ney pugnacity had been considerably damped by his 
sojourn in the O'Flaherty keep, and the fear of rats and 
of the rising tide had lowered his resistance. The bus 
stopped, the Colonel bundled him in and handed his 
bag up to the conductor. In a matter of seconds the 
bus was on its way again. Colonel Wotherspoon turned 
and looked back across the lough, and at the mellow 

1 66 



stone walls of his house embowered in trees and re- 
flected in the still water. He mopped his brow. 
Whether or not he had done anything towards pre- 
serving the unspoiled peace of Ballydingan he could 
not be sure. At least he had secured a momentary 
breathing space. 



167 



24 



william got to Oughterard at twenty minutes to six 
and had a few minutes to wait until the Clifden bus 
pulled in by the Anglers' Hotel. When the bus arrived 
he saw Belinda and Patricia in the front seat, and 
beckoned them to join him. 

"We've wasted pounds" said Belinda. "You know 
how enormous the fares are now. Why didn't you tell 
us you'd be here?" 

"I'd no idea the thing would go so easily," explained 
William. "He simply walked down the steps and I 
slammed the trapdoor down." 

"And what do we do next?" asked Patricia. 

"I thought we'd go and see what he's feeling like. 
After about three hours down there he should be ready 
to listen to reason." 

"And if he isn't?" 

"I don't know." William had not yet begun to con- 
template this possibility, or even what he was going to do 
with Mr. Higgett when he had been liberated. "I suppose 
we'd have to leave him for a bit longer until he cooled off. ' ' 

"We could go home and get sandwiches," said 
Belinda, "and picnic on top of him." 

"I suppose it's quite easy to open from the inside 
once you've shot the bolt?" asked Patricia. 

1 68 



"The trapdoor? Yes, it is." 

"Well, if the worst comes to the worst we shall just 
have to shoot the bolt back very quietly and run away. 
Then, sooner or later, he'd find he could get out." 

"And you'd have to lie low, William," said Belinda, 
"until he'd left the neighbourhood." 

They climbed into William's car and set off for the 
Canal Bridge and Lough Dhubach. 

It was a lovely evening, though the westering sun was 
rather too much of a good thing for WillianijWho was 
at the wheel and steering steadily into it. The Maam 
Turks rose up on their right in hues of green and blue 
and grey. They crossed the head of the Maam valley, 
and ahead of them Were the Twelve Bens, the mountain 
heart of Connemara. It was here that the bus from 
Clifden to Galway passed them, carrying, though they 
were unaware of it, the angry little figure of Mr. Hig- 
gett, who was pouring out to Paddy Lally, the con- 
ductor, the story of his ill-treatment and the outrageous 
reception he had received on his first visit to the 
Emerald Isle. The sympathy with which his tale of woe 
was received did much to restore his wounded vanity. 

William pulled up in almost the identical spot where 
he had stopped three hours before. They all got slowly 
out of the car and stood for a moment listening, and 
looking glumly across to the O'Flaherty ruin. 

"He'll have cooled down by now," said William, 
giving voice to the unspoken apprehension which had 
been mounting within them for the past half hour. 
"Goodness, his bag's gone." 

He was looking over the wall where he had dropped 
Mr. Higgett's bag, and there was no sign of it anywhere. 

"We haven't passed any tinkers," said Belinda. 

"How frightful," said William. "I'll offer to pay for 

169 



it, of course. I just don't understand it. People don't 
steal things like other people's bags." 

"Some tinkers may have gone the other way," 
observed Patricia. 

"It's a good job he didn't bring some special 'azel 
wand to which he was attached," said Belinda, trying 
to look on the bright side of things. "I expect it was 
only a flannel nightshirt and a toothbrush. I feel sure 
he wore a flannel nightshirt." 

"I'll go and have a talk to him," said William. "You 
two wait here." 

"We'll all come," said Belinda. 

"No," said William. "It's no good us all getting 
involved. Besides, I may have to make a quick 
getaway." 

"If there were three of us, then he wouldn't know 
which of us to chase," said Patricia sensibly. "Like the 
donkey between the two loads of hay." 

"We three are quite a match for Mr. Higgett," said 
Belinda. 

They dropped over the wall, crossed the field, and 
clambered up the sloping ground at the base of the 
ruined tower. There was a silence which was almost 
palpable. William banged on the top of the trapdoor. 

"Mr. Higgett!" he shouted. 

There was no reply, except for a faint echo which 
came three times from across the lake, each time grow- 
ing fainter until the silence closed down again. 

"Oh dear," said Belinda. "I do hope nothing has 
happened to him. You don't think he had a bad heart 
or something and has died of shock?" 

"Of course not," said William, but he sounded un- 
easy. "I expect he's lying low so he can spring out and 
take us by surprise." He gave another bang on the 

170 



trapdoor. "Mr. Higgett," he called down, "we've come 
to free you if you promise to go home." 

"I think we'd better risk it, and open the thing up," 
said Patricia. "Something may have happened to 
him." 

William stooped and shot the bolt. He had half 
expected the trapdoor to be pushed upward from be- 
low by an irate Mr. Higgett, but nothing happened. 
He waited a few moments, then quickly raised it and 
stepped back. The stone steps were revealed going 
down into what had been an O'Flaherty storeroom in 
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 

"He's probably had a heart attack or something," 
said Belinda. "We shall have to go down and have a 
look." 

"It's his own fault, anyway," said William savagely. 
"He shouldn't have come over here, trying to raise hell 
in Ballydingan." 

"He was only doing his job, poor little man," ob- 
served Patricia. 

"You might say that of — of hired murderers," said 
William. "And he was going to murder the place as 
we know it." 

Belinda was peering down into the depths below. 

"Mr. Higgett!" she called, but there was no reply. 

W T illiam began to go cautiously down the steps. "I 
gave him my torch," he said. "He needn't have been 
scared of the dark because it would have lasted till now 
if he'd left it on all the time. I got a new battery on 
Wednesday. I shall never be able to see anything with 
matches." He struck one as he spoke, and the girls 
watched him as he disappeared round the turn of the 
stairs. A moment later his voice came back to them. 

"There's no one here." 

171 



"Are you sure?" Belinda called down to him. 

William reappeared on the steps. 

"There's only the one cellar place, and it isn't very 
big. It's absolutely empty." 

"There isn't any secret passage?" asked Patricia. 

"I've never heard of one, and they're all a cod, any- 
way." 

"Whatever can have happened to him?" Patricia 
peered uncertainly down the steps as if trying to con- 
jure up the presence of the absconding Mr. Higgett. 
"You're sure you fastened him in properly?" 

"Of course I did," said William. "You couldn't be 
mistaken in a thing like that. Besides, you all saw the 
bolt was shot, and there's no possible way of opening it 
from the inside. And I could hear him banging away 
on the under side of the trapdoor all the way back to 
the car." 

"Then someone passing must have heard him and 
let him out," said Patricia. "There's nothing more we 
can do now, anyway." 

"Let's call in and consult Fr. Rooney," suggested 
Belinda. "I don't mean about Mr. Higgett particu- 
larly, I mean about the whole thing. I'm sure he could 
tell the village it would be sacrilege to disturb St. 
Dingan, and then they wouldn't dare try it." 

William closed and bolted the trapdoor, and they 
went back slowly to the car. As they got farther away 
from the Flaherty castle relief became the dominant 
emotion, and their spirits began to rise. Whatever had 
happened, they were no longer in a position of having 
to calm down an irate Mr. Higgett, and to try to per- 
suade him to go home. 

Half-heartedly William opposed the plan to consult 
Fr. Rooney, but as Belinda pointed out, there didn't 

172 



seem to be any alternative. Certainly William had 
nothing positive to propose. 

"They don't always do as their priest tells them," 
he said. "Look at dancing. " 

"But that's different," said Belinda. "This is a 
really religious thing. Faith and morals, and all that." 

"Dancing has to do with morals," said William. 
"That's why they are always trying to stop it." 

"Only morals in a very restricted sense," said 
Patricia. "It's the only amusement most of the young 
people have. There's no wonder they think of England 
as a sort of Promised Land." 

"I think Ireland is marvellous as it is," said William. 
"I'm glad I'm going to Cambridge, but I shall be just 
as glad to come back to Ballydingan. As long as you're 
still here," he added to Belinda. 

"Then we simply have to get Fr. Rooney to put his 
foot down." 

Fr. Rooney was a little surprised to see the three 
of them on the presbytery doorstep. He invited them 
in with a cordial smile, though his first remark caused 
some consternation. 

"And where's your fine beard now?" he asked 
William. 

"Goodness!" exclaimed William. "How did you 
know about it?" 

"Putting two and two together," said Fr. Rooney. 
"Frightening poor Miss Maconochie almost into the 
Catholic Church, to say nothing of Colonel Wother- 
spoon. I'm surprised at ye." 

"We did it with the best intentions," Belinda told 
him. "I'm sure you're like Daddy in wanting to keep 
Ballydingan unspoiled." 

"That doesn't excuse trifling with the Faith," said 

173 



Fr. Rooney, though his eyes were twinkling. "And 
haven't you an English proverb about the road to hell 
being paved with the best intentions?" 

"Good intentions," Patricia corrected him, "and 
that is rather different, you must admit." 

"Ah, well," said Fr. Rooney, "and so poor Mr. 
Freeman is being driven away by the village's patron 
saint. 'Tis a sad thing, surely." 

"It's all these horrid journalists," said Belinda. 
"They make a sensation out of anything, and it's all 
for the sake of making a sensation. They don't care 
about anything, really. St. Dingan doesn't mean a 
thing to them." 

"I don't care for the fellows at all," said Fr. Rooney. 
"Their motives are certainly not of the best, or their 
intentions, should I say?" He smiled at Patricia. "But 
what are we going to do about them?" 

"I suppose you've seen that they're getting a water- 
diviner in, sir?" asked William. He glanced at the 
girls. "We met him in Galway and I locked him up in 
the old Flaherty keep at the end of Colonel Wother- 
spoon's lake." 

"And someone has let him out," Belinda finished for 
him. 

"He's no business to come messing about here," 
said William. 

"I don't see why we should have the horrible man 
committing sacrilege in our church," said Belinda. She 
was nearly in tears. 

"Set your minds at rest," said Fr. Rooney. "He 
won't find anything, and if he does it'll all be a cod, and 
we'll laugh him out of the village." 

"What do you mean?" asked Patricia. They were all 
looking at him wide-eyed. 

174 



"St. Dingan was buried at Kildare," said Fr. Rooney. 
"More shame on me I didn't know it from the start." 

"Is that really true?" asked Belinda. 

"Professor Murphy of Galway University, a poor, 
queer fellow but a scholar, rang me up not much more 
than an hour ago. Very indignant he was that we were 
claiming to possess the bones of St. Dingan. It seems 
he retired to Kildare, and was buried there in 494." 

"How marvellous!" exclaimed Belinda. "Then we 
needn't have bothered about the awful Mr. Higgett if 
we'd only known. William will have to lie low for a day 
or two, but I don't suppose he'll ever find out who 
motored him from Galway." Belinda's eyes sparkled. 
"I could kiss you," she said to Fr. Rooney. 

"William won't have to go parading about in that 
fine red beard," said Fr. Rooney. 

"I hope you won't say anything to Uncle, sir," said 
William. 

"I will not, of course," said Fr. Rooney. "He's just 
after ringing me up to say his sciatica is cured, and as a 
thank offering he's going to pay for the new Stations 
we're putting up in the church. It would be uncharit- 
able to interfere with such a good work." He smiled at 
William. "The good Lord can use any instrument He 
pleases, even a young man in a false beard." 



175 



25 



st. dingan's bones did not even provide a nine days' 
wonder, for the Sunday newspapers carried Professor 
Murphy's telephoned message on an inside page — not 
sensationally displayed because the message was a 
damper on all sensation — and the Monday newspapers 
carried a report of Fr. Rooney's sermon, in which he 
categorically asserted that the bones of St. Dingan were 
at Kildare, even though his non-corporeal part now 
had perfect freedom of movement both in heaven and 
earth. By eleven o'clock on the Monday morning all 
the reporters, with the exception of Mr. Thompson, 
had left Ballydingan. 

Mr. Higgett had stayed the night in Galway, but 
although he had discovered William's identity by 
making a simple inquiry at the Great Southern, when 
he heard that his erstwhile captor was the nephew and 
heir of a peer he decided to let sleeping dogs lie, for 
Mr. Higgett was old-fashioned enough to dearly love a 
lord. When he rang up the London office of Lord 
Rotherbrook's newspapers on the Sunday, they had 
already received a copy of Professor Murphy's state- 
ment which had been telephoned to the Irish Sunday 
papers, and he was instructed to return to London. 

Mrs. Shotter remained in Ballydingan until the 

176 



Tuesday. The reason was that she had heard from 
Mrs. Primby all about Miss Fisher's occult powers, and 
as Miss Fisher did not consider it proper to contact the 
unseen world on a Sunday, but promised a session on 
the Monday after supper, Mrs. Shotter stayed on to 
witness a demonstration. Unfortunately the seance was 
more than dominated by Mrs. Primby's aunt, who was 
even more than usually incomprehensible, and Mrs. 
Shotter herself was somewhat distrait. Although her 
back was cured — she had not had a twinge since 
falling over the tombstone — she had now started a 
peculiar discomfort in her stomach. The cause might 
just possibly be Mrs. Primby's cooking, but Mrs. 
Shotter was not one to fly to so mundane an explana- 
tion, and she was excited by the thought that perhaps 
she was beginning a new ailment. It certainly helped 
her to bear the vagaries of Mrs. Primby's disembodied 
aunt. 

Mr. Thompson did not go back to the ascetic regime 
which had furnished the motive for his visit to Mrs. 
Primby's. He had decided to call it a working holiday, 
and spent a happy day in the English bar, in Seamus 
King's, in Tomas King's, in O'Rorke's, and Vaughan's, 
and Connolly's, and after a somewhat jejune meal at 
Mrs. Primby's (both the potatoes and the cabbage 
boiled dry while Mrs. Primby gossiped happily with 
Mrs. Shotter), having evaded the seance by asserting 
that he had telephone calls to make of the utmost ur- 
gency, he spent a happy evening in Egan's Hotel, and 
even hummed an accompaniment to the Wild Colonial 
Boy. 

Miss Maconochie paid a special visit to Galway, and 
bought several manuals on Catholic faith and practice 
at Kenny's bookshop in the High Street, but her con- 

177 



version was delayed. Reference to her diary of coming 
events advised her that the fortieth anniversary of the 
execution of Sir Roger Casement was approaching, and 
she was occupied for several days, with her Thesaurus 
and rhyming dictionary, composing an ode in honour of 
that gallant and much maligned Anglo-Irish gentleman 
who espoused the cause of Ireland when he had nothing 
to gain, and everything, even his life, to lose. 

Lord Roundstone's sciatica gave no signs of return- 
ing. When next his old friend the Colonel dined with 
him, the two of them finished a bottle of burgundy 
between them, and passed the port at least three times. 

"I thought you were forbidden port, Porky," said 
Lord Roundstone. 

"It's a most extraordinary thing, Mouser," said the 
Colonel, "but my blood pressure is down to normal. I 
was vetted only last week." He looked a little shame- 
faced, as Englishmen so often do when giving voice to 
something they consider sacred. "I'm sure it was that 
fellow, St. Dingan." He looked even more embar- 
rassed. "I wouldn't like anyone to know," he said, 
"except you, Mouser. I sent Fr. Rooney a fiver anony- 
mously. I'd have sent more only I thought he might 
begin to wonder about it. And I'm going to give 
William a good tip when he goes to Cambridge." 

"William?" said Lord Roundstone. "You mean my 
nephew, William? How does he come into it?" 

"Oh, he doesn't," said the Colonel hurriedly. "I 
mean I have to plan my expenses ahead, you know." 

"You needn't bother your head about William, 
Porky. He has a very good allowance from his father's 
estate, quite apart from what I give him." 

"Quite, quite," said the Colonel. "But I should like 
to give him a tip all the same. You only go up to the 

i 7 8 



'Varsity once. And it's a sort of thank offering for the 
peace of Ballydingan." 

The Conneelly children still play in the dingle, but it 
is no longer as secluded as it was. The weeds have been 
removed by pious villagers, and a stone coping borders 
the spring. The water is as popular as that in the gal- 
vanized container which stands in the porch of St. 
Joseph's. Moira Rorke swears a draught of it cured her 
earache, and Mrs. Vaughan is emphatic that it is an 
infallible panacea for the wind. 

Brendan Burke, who is being coached by Fr. O'Toole 
so that he can catch up with his reading and writing, 
often visits the well, in which he feels a proprietorial 
interest as great as that of the Conneelly children. He 
was up there only the other day, contemplating the now 
pellucid little stream, and thinking the long, long 
thoughts of youth. Suddenly his feelings bubbled up 
like the waters which had refreshed St. Dingan in his 
oratory so many years before. 

" well," he said. And in heaven, where the 

secrets of all hearts are disclosed, it was received as a 
prayer of thanksgiving. 



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